Nearly one million patient safety incidents occurred among Medicare patients between 2006 and 2008, according to the seventh annual HealthGrades Patient Safety in American Hospitals study. The figure is virtually unchanged since last year’s study. The study found that one in 10 patients—99,180 individuals—died as a result of a patient safety incident. In all, the incidents were associated with $8.9 billion in costs.
The study evaluated 39.5 million hospitalization records from the nation’s nearly 5,000 nonfederal hospitals using indicators developed by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The AHRQ tracks trends in a range of patient safety incidents and identifies those hospitals that are in the top 5% in the nation.
Patients at hospitals in the top 5% experienced 43% fewer patient safety incidents, on average, compared to poorly performing hospitals. If all hospitals performed at this level, 218,572 patient safety incidents and 22,590 deaths potentially could have been avoided, saving $2.0 billion from 2006 through 2008, according to the study.
Six patient safety indicators showed improvement while eight indicators worsened in 2008 compared to 2006, including decubitus ulcer, iatrogenic pneumothorax, post-operative hip fracture, post-operative physiologic and metabolic derangements, post-operative pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis, post-operative sepsis, and transfusion reaction. These accounted for 78.94% of the total patient safety incidents studied.
“This annual study serves the twin goals of documenting the state of patient safety for hospitals to benchmark against, and providing individuals with objective information with which to evaluate local hospitals,” said Rick May, MD, a vice president at HealthGrades and co-author of the study. “It is disheartening, however, to see that the numbers have not changed since last year’s study and, in fact, certain patient safety incidents, such as post-operative sepsis, are on the rise.”