The federal government has released the result of a study which shows that “patient safety errors” resulted in 238,337 potentially preventable deaths. The cost to the taxpayers? Nearly 9 billion dollars. The study covered the period from 2004 through 2006.The study reviewed the medical records of 41 million Medicare patients. It found that the overall error rate was 3%, meaning that 1 out of every 33 Medicare patients was the victim of medical malpractice. The error rate in smaller community and rural hospitals was significantly higher than that of top performing medical centers, normally found in cities and associated with medical schools and universities.
Keep in mind that these dramatic numbers–238,337 preventable deaths are not indicative of the rate of medical malpractice in the entire country. This study looked at the records of Medicare patients, a small percentage of the population. Undoubtedly, the death rate and cost, in terms of health care dollars spent in treating victims of medical malpractice, is several times larger.Starting October 1st, Medicare and Medicaid will stop paying for treatment for eight common preventable errors, such as instruments left in the body during surgery, wrong site surgery and certain kinds of post-surgical infections.