With No National Reporting System, Volume of Medical Errors Is Still Unknown

Modern Healthcare
By Harris Meyer
November 9, 2019

For the purpose of improving patient safety, wouldn’t it help to know whether the number of patients who die each year due to preventable medical errors in U.S. hospitals is 44,000 or 400,000?

That’s the grisly range of estimates produced by researchers over the past 20 years, starting with the Institute of Medicine’s To Err is Human report in 1999. The IOM’s estimate that at least 44,000 and as many as 98,000 people die in hospitals due to adverse events shocked the nation into paying greater attention to patient safety.

But 20 years after the IOM authors called for developing a mandatory, nationwide system for reporting adverse events causing death or serious harm, no such system has been established. Thus, no one knows how frequently patients experience harm in healthcare settings, though nearly everyone agrees it’s far too common.