Data analysis pegs slip fall death rate at 11,000 annually.

A new study released by two researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine shows that just behind heart disease and cancer, medical errors are killing 250,000 patients each year in America.  The report published in the British Medical Journal is striking as it accounts for 10 percent of all U.S. deaths each year.

What may be most jarring is that – even with all the recent efforts to develop and maintain high-quality medical care – so many Americans are dying from system wide faults and poorly coordinated care.

A fresh look and updated math point to a much larger medical error epidemic

A commonly cited statistic published in 1999 by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report put the U.S. medical-error death rate at 44,000 to 98,000 per year.  However Martin Makary and Michael Daniel of Johns Hopkins took a fresh look using studies published since the 1999 IOM report to calculate a mean death rate of 251,454 deaths per year by extrapolating to the total number of U.S. hospital admission in 2013.

Patient falls lead to 11,000 deaths a year

According to the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare, each year, between 700,000 and 1 million patients fall while in the hospital.  That rivals the number of patients who contract a healthcare associated infection (HAI). Of those patient falls, 11,000 result in a fatality, and 30-35% result in injuries.  Extended stays to treat fall injuries mean bottom-line impacts for the hospital.

As part of their treatise on medical error mortality, Makary and Daniels point to poor data collection and sharing throughout both the entire U.S. healthcare system as well as globally.  Commenting in a US News/AOL article on the new research, Dr. Ashish Jha, a patient-safety expert and director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, states:

"If you called the CEO of a big hospital and asked, 'How many medical errors did you have last month? How many falls? How many falls that resulted in serious injury?' They won't know."

We are keenly aware of this issue of inpatient slip-falls, and the health impact on both the patient under care, and to hospital staff injured.  This staff injury aspect of patient falls is another area that is also statistically invisible.

Reducing the risk of hospital slip and fall injuries and fatalities

A new white paper, Design Approaches to Reduce Patient-Fall Injuries in Hospitals takes an in depth look at architectural design approaches that may help reduce the risk of patient slip-falls.  One example, among others:  Placing a handrail from the patient’s bed to bathroom to aid in balance.

Download White Paper