Medical errors may be third most common cause of death in U.S.

A new study, published recently in the Journal of Patient Safety, estimates that medical errors in hospitals contribute to the deaths of 200,000 to 440,000 patients per year.  If the statistics are accurate, medical errors would be the third leading cause of death in the United States, with only deaths caused by cancer or heart disease more numerous.  You can read about this new study on ProPublica’s website here.   In 1999, the Institute of Medicine reported that as many as 98,000 people die each year as a result of medical errors in hospitals.  No matter which study is more accurate, the number of people injured by medical errors is staggering.

There are a few ways that patients can protect themselves while hospitalized.  Have someone with you to act as a second set of ears and eyes.  It is difficult to fully understand everything when you are sick or undergoing surgery. Keep a notebook by your bed and write down your prescriptions, contact information, and any questions that come to mind.  You can discuss your questions later with your provider.  Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer close by and insist that the hospital workers use it.  Learn the names of your nurses and aides and make sure that they are familiar with you and your medical problems.