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15 Years Later and Patients No Safer

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By: Robert Geimer

This year marks the 15 year anniversary of the Institute of Medicine’s landmark report that identified preventable medical errors as one of the leading causes of death in America.  However, the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging heard testimony last week that patients today are no safer than they were when the report was first released 15 years ago.  According to news reports [1], Dr. Ashish Jha, Professor of Public Health at Harvard University told the Committee that “We have not moved the needle in any demonstrable way overall.”

This is completely unacceptable.  Recent reports suggest that preventable medical errors could now be the third leading cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer.  Comprehensive reform and a culture of patient safety have to be priorities in reconfiguring the healthcare delivery system in the U.S., and it will take cooperation among physicians, hospitals and insurers to institute changes so that 15 years from now there will hopefully be far fewer preventable deaths from medical errors.

[1] Hospital patients no safer today than 15 years ago, Senate panel hears
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