Obama announces new effort to cut medical errors that cost thousands of lives & millions of dollars

April 13, 2011

Noam N. Levey

The Obama administration Tuesday announced a broad new initiative to reduce medical errors, partnering with private insurers, business leaders, hospitals and patient advocates to tackle a problem that kills thousands of Americans every year.

The campaign, funded by the healthcare overhaul the president signed last year, aims to cut the number of harmful preventable conditions such as infections that patients acquire in the hospital by 40% over the next three years.

And it seeks to cut readmissions to hospitals 20% by encouraging better care for patients after they leave the hospital.

“Those are big goals,” said Dr. Don Berwick, a leading national advocate for patient safety who oversees the federal Medicareand Medicaid programs. “But the results for patients and families will be dramatic — millions of people … suffering less, tens of thousands of deaths averted and anguish and worry decreased beyond measure.”

Concern about medical errors and the dangers of hospital-acquired infections has been building for more than a decade amid growing evidence that the nation’s hospitals are not as safe as was commonly believed.

One recent study published in the journal Health Affairs estimated that one in three patients admitted to a hospital experiences what is known as an “adverse event” such as being given the wrong medication, acquiring an infection or receiving the wrong surgical procedure.

While top-performing institutions around the country have made dramatic improvements in reducing errors, many healthcare experts and patient advocates believe progress has been too slow.

“We can’t keep going at the pace we are going,” said Sorrel King, a leading patient advocate whose 18-month-old daughter Josie died in 2001 when she was given the wrong medication at Johns Hopkins Medical Center, where she was being treated for burns.

To read more, visit: http://www.latimes.com/health/sc-dc-0413-medical-errors-20110413,0,2117754.story

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