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Ten Most Costly Medical Errors

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Lancet Staff Report

This may never make David Letterman’s top ten segment but to many physicians it may be much more meaningful. Cheryl Clark of Health Leaders Media (August, 2010) discusses the impact of these “top ten” most costly medical errors.

It is reported that almost $20 billion of the annual healthcare bill can be attributed to avoidable medical errors. The greatest part of that amount was the cost of pharmaceutical services to patients involved with medical errors.

The overwhelming numbers of errors were attributed to pressure ulcers. Many of these were determined to be preventable. Most of the remaining top 10 were related to postoperative infections and prosthetic devices.

The report estimated that, of the 6.3 million medical injuries, almost two million were deemed as medical errors. The following is a breakdown of the most prevalent claims of medical errors and the associated average cost per error.
(1) Pressure ulcers, with 374, 964 errors at $10,288 per error.
(2) Postoperative infections, resulting in 252,695 errors at $14,548 per error.
(3) Mechanical failure of a device or implant that amounted to 60,380 errors at $18,771 per error.
(4) Postlaminectomy syndrome with 113,823 errors at $9,863 per error.
(5) Hemorrhage that complicated a procedure amounted to 78,216 errors at $12,272 per error.
(6) Infection following infusion or injection at 8,855 errors at $78,083 per error.
(7) Pneumothorax, 25,559 errors at $24,132 per error.
(8) Infections due to a central venous catheter totaled 7,062 errors at $83,365 per error.
(9) Complications from internal prosthetic devices. These attributed to 26,783 errors with a cost of $17,233 per error.
(10) Finally number ten was the ventral hernia without mention of gangrene. There were 53,810 errors for a cost of $8,178 per error.

One of the goals of health care providers should be to find ways to reduce the costs of care. Finding ways to improve outcomes and prevent the applicable costly errors shown above should be a major concern for all health care providers.