Doctor shows information: medical errorWhen the Institute of Medicine released its 1999 report, “To Err is Human: Building A Safer Health System,” researchers estimated that up to 98,000 people die annually due to medical mistakes, but a new study published in the Journal of Patient Safety suggests the true number is dramatically higher. Researchers now believe that 210,000 – 400,000 patients actually die each year as the result of preventable adverse events in hospitals, which according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would make such errors the third leading cause of death in the United States.

John T. James, Ph.D., a toxicologist and leader of the advocacy group Patient Safety America, conducted the research detailed in the new study.  In his research, James analyzed four recent studies that used the “Global Trigger Tool” to flag evidence pointing to the occurrence of adverse events causing harm to patients. In a Fierce Health article, James explained that it really doesn’t matter whether medical errors are causing 100,000 or 400,000 deaths. “Any of the estimates demands assertive action on the part of providers, legislators and people who will one day become patients,” he said.

Even Lucian Leape, M.D., who assisted in the research and compilation of the To Err Is Human report, has commented publicly and indicated that he believes James’ calculations are more on target than the original estimates.

To access the study, A New, Evidence-based Estimate of Patient Harms Associated with Hospital Care, click here.