More than 43 million people are injured worldwide each year due to unsafe medical care, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). These injuries result in the loss of nearly 23 million years of “healthy” life. The findings represent a major new effort to calculate the global burden of unsafe medical care across a range of adverse health events.
The study appears online September 18, 2013 in BMJ Quality & Safety.
“This is the first attempt to quantify the human suffering that results from unsafe care,” said lead author Ashish Jha, professor of health policy and management at HSPH. “We find that millions of people around the world are hurt, disabled, and sometimes even die as a result of medical errors.”
The HSPH researchers, along with colleagues at the Patient Safety Programme of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland and the Health Care Quality and Outcomes Program at RTI International in Durham, North Carolina, used data from more than 4,000 articles that have been published over the previous few decades that focused on adverse events in hospitals, as well as from epidemiologic studies commissioned by WHO aimed at estimating how much these events harmed patients. They examined seven different adverse outcomes that can occur while patients are hospitalized: injuries due to medications; catheter-related urinary tract infections; catheter-related blood stream infections; hospital-acquired pneumonia; blood clots in veins; falls; and bedsores.