An estimated 161,000 Americans die each year because of preventable medical errors, according to a new study by Johns Hopkins University. The study, which was published by Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit which ranks hospital safety, shows that fatalities by preventable medical errors are trending downward. Three years ago, the number of preventable deaths stood at 206,000.
“We are cautiously optimistic we are going to see real change and that is good news from this report,” Leah Binder, President and CEO of the Leapfrog Group, told Modern Healthcare. “But 161,000 is still a lot of people it’s a terrible problem. We have a long way to go.” Binder continued to explain that the number of preventable deaths is likely an underestimate since the study only looked at 16 safety categories and the “subset of each safety issue” in each category. According to Leapfrog Group, 15 of the 16 measures used to judge patient safety are the same used by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) to judge nursing home quality.
Unsurprisingly, hospitals with a record of poor patient care had a higher risk of avoidable death. Leapfrog Group utilizes these 16 safety measures and assigns a letter grade to hospitals and states, overall. According to their publication, the risk of avoidable death was 88 percent higher for a “C” hospital when compared to an “A” hospital. For hospitals with a “C” or “D” rating, patients have a 92 percent higher risk of avoidable death. For states like New York – where only 7.53 percent of hospitals received an “A” – this study suggests a significantly higher risk of preventable deaths at the state’s hospitals. Nationwide, more than 30 percent of hospitals received an “A” grade by Leapfrog Group.
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