Medical Errors Now the 3rd Leading Cause of Death in the US

medical errors

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have declared medical errors as the third leading cause of death in the US in their study published on May 3 in the British Medical Journal. Medical errors that kill more than 250,000 every year dethroned respiratory disease from the spot on the chart.

The researchers lament that medical errors do not get the same study and funding as other leading causes of deaths, which includes cancer and heart disease. They assert that medical errors are not solely due to bad doctors. These most likely stem from disorganised health systems, poorly coordinated care and disorganised insurance networks.

“Incidence rates for deaths directly attributable to medical care gone awry haven’t been recognized in any standardized method for collecting national statistics,” says researcher and health reform authority Martin Makary, who is also a professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “The medical coding system was designed to maximise billing for physician services, not to collect national health statistics, as it is currently being used.”

medical errors

Patient record. Credit: Pixabay/Darko Stojanovic

The researchers studied medical death rate data taken from 2000 to 2008. In 2013 alone, there was a total of 35,416,020 hospitalisations, 251,454 of which are due to medical errors. Overall, the researchers conclude that medical errors account for 9.5 percent of deaths every year in the US.

The researchers call upon authorities to solve this problem. Nevertheless, they point out that more studies are still needed.

“Unwarranted variation is endemic in health care. Developing consensus protocols that streamline the delivery of medicine and reduce variability can improve quality and lower costs in health care,” adds Makary.” More research on preventing medical errors from occurring is needed to address the problem.”

The top two causes of death in the US for the year 2013 are heart disease followed by cancer. A total of 611,105 people had died of heart disease during that year while 584,881 died of cancer in the same year.


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