President Obama has set a lofty goal of reducing by forty percent the number of preventable medical errors over the coming three years. Studies show preventable errors are a growing problem and significantly driving up medical costs. The LA Times reports that a recent study found that 1 in 3 hospital patients experienced an adverse event, such as being given a wrong medication, or even receiving the wrong surgical procedure (read our past post on high incidence of surgery performed on wrong body part). The administration plans to spend a billion dollars to help hospitals and community based health organizations develop and test new programs and protocols to reduce medical errors and cut down on the number of problems experienced by patients immediately after they are discharged, which result in costly hospital readmissions.
Funded by last year’s sweeping healthcare bill, the campaign is part of a larger effort to reduce medical costs and improve patient safety. It comes at a pivotal moment, as lawmakers are considering federal medical malpractice reforms. Despite a lot of misguided political rhetoric, malpractice lawsuits represent a minuscule portion of our nation’s healthcare spending. In fact, studies show that given the high prevalence of medical errors (as noted above), the number of malpractice lawsuits is quite low (click here for our previous post on medical malpractice myths). This new campaign sends a strong message that if the country wants to get serious about reducing medical costs and improving patient care, it must address preventable medical errors, which are plaguing our nation’s healthcare system.
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