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Annual Cost of Medical Errors Estimated at $17.1 Billion

Analysts with the actuarial firm Milliman estimate that measurable medical errors cost the nation $17.1 billion in 2008. Pressure ulcers, postoperative infections, and post-laminectomy syndrome were the most frequently occurring errors identified in their examination of medical claims data. Ten types of errors were the most costly, accounting for two-thirds of annual medical error costs. Postoperative infections, pressure  ulcers, and mechanical complication of a noncardiac device, implant, or graft topped the most costly list of errors. Data is provided on the incidence,  expense per error,  and the national aggregate cost for each of the most frequent and most costly error types.

Source: Van Den Bos J and others. The $17.1 billion problem: the annual cost of measurable medical errors. Health Affairs, vol. 30, no.4, Apr. 2011, pp. 596-603. http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/30/4/596.abstract

One Response

  1. Also in the news this week is a related Health Affairs article indicating that medical errors may occur ten times more frequently than previously thought, potentially affecting one in three hospital patients.

    The April 2011 issue of the journal Health Affairs focuses on the theme, Still Crossing the Quality Chasm, identifying the continuing problem of medical errors and efforts to prevent them.


    Fleming C. Hospital errors ten times more common than thought? Health Affairs blog, Apr. 7, 2011. http://healthaffairs.org/blog/2011/04/07/new-health-affairs-hospital-errors-ten-times-more-common-than-thought

    Classen DC and others. ‘Global trigger tool’ shows that adverse events in hospitals may be ten time greater than previously thought. Health Affairs, vol. 30, no. 4, Apr. 2011, pp. 4755-4763. http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/30/4/581.abstract

    Health Affairs, April 2011 issue at http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/30/4.toc

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