Virginia residents could be shocked to learn that medical mishaps and mistakes kill more Americans each year than every other kind of accident combined. According to experts, doctors and hospitals cause more than a quarter of a million unnecessary deaths each year in the United States, which makes health care the nation’s third-leading killer after heart disease and cancer. However, the results of studies conducted by a group advocating for health care reform indicate that the experts may be wrong and the number of patients killed by medical mistakes could really be much higher.
Hospitals and physicians are understandably reluctant to draw attention to the high number of people who either die or suffer serious injury each year after seeking treatment, so the Institute for Health Care Improvement developed a way to search through medical records and find evidence of negligence and incompetence. The nonprofit organization named the technique Global Trigger, and they used it for the first time in 2013. The results suggest that medical errors are up to 10 times more common than many experts believe and could be killing more than 400,000 Americans each year in hospitals alone.
Doctors’ offices and outpatient facilities
These figures, while alarming, do not tell the whole story because doctors’ offices and outpatient facilities treat far more people than hospitals. After adjusting the fatality numbers to account for the way health care is actually administered in the United States, IHCI researchers concluded that the annual medical malpractice death toll could be as high as 980,000. That would mean health care kills more Americans each year than World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined.
Medical malpractice lawsuits
Addressing issues that cause mistakes and accidents could prevent thousands of deaths and save the health care industry and its insurers millions of dollars in medical malpractice awards and settlements each year. These cases draw attention to systemic deficiencies and cause a great deal of embarrassment to a profession that is often portrayed as the world’s best, which is why they are often settled quickly and quietly at the negotiating table.