The World Health Organization recently reported on the extent of the dangers that medical errors and hospital-acquired infections pose for patients. WHO Patient Safety Envoy Liam Donaldson revealed disturbing statistics about negligent medical treatment: a patient going into a hospital has a one in 10 chance of having the medical care providers err during his or her care, and the chance that the patient will die from that error is one in 300. In contrast, a passenger on an airplane has a one in 10 million chance of dying in a plane crash.
One of the greatest risks a patient runs when entering a hospital is contracting an infection during his or her stay. According to WHO statistics, seven out of 10 patients develop infections in hospitals overall. The infection rate is higher in developing countries: 10 out of 100 patients on average contract infections. The WHO reports that in the U.S. alone, about 1.7 million patients contract infections in hospitals per year, about 100,000 of which turned fatal.
Medication errors are also a common problem when people seek health care. According to the Journal of the American Medical Information Association, there are over one million serious medication errors in U.S. hospitals each year. The Institute of Medicine reports more than 7,000 people die annually as a result of improperly administered medication in hospitals.
Over 100,000 hospitals around the world follow a surgical safety checklist that the WHO issued in order to reduce instances of medical errors and infections. The WHO estimates that if all hospitals followed its checklist, 50,000 fewer people would die each year and complications from surgeries would drop dramatically, as well. If all hospitals maintained basic hygiene standards and hospital staff washed their hands with soap and water or some type of alcohol-based cleanser, hospital-acquired infections would decrease by half, according to the WHO.
Medical errors often require further lengthy and costly medical treatment to correct the damage wrought by the medical providers’ negligence. Patients who receive negligent medical care may need to pursue malpractice claims against the hospitals and the doctors who provided treatment if those providers failed to meet the standards of care that the medical profession established to recover for medical costs, lost wages, lost future earnings and pain, and suffering.
The WHO is calling attention to the problem that medical errors and infections cause in health care systems. Patients everywhere are hoping that medical providers pay attention and follow the WHO’s suggestions for reducing errors.