Medical Errors Have Impact After Hospital Discharge

They are linked to excess costs, deaths and hospital readmissions
By A. Agrawal, PhD
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, July 28 (HealthDay News) -- Medical errors affect patients in the months after hospital discharge as well as during their hospital stays, leading to excess costs, deaths and hospital readmissions, according to a study published online July 25 in Health Services Research.

William E. Encinosa, Ph.D., and Fred J. Hellinger, Ph.D., from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in Rockville, Md., examined 14 patient safety indicators (potentially preventable adverse medical events) among 161,004 surgeries from the 2001-2002 nationwide insurance claims of 5.6 million enrollees. The indicators fell into seven groups: technical problems, infections, pulmonary and vascular problems, acute respiratory failure, metabolic problems, wound problems, and nursing-sensitive events.

The researchers found that the excess costs attributable to medical errors ranged from $646 for technical problems to $28,218 for acute respiratory failure, with up to 20 percent of the costs occurring after discharge. A third of all 90- day deaths occurred post-discharge, giving an excess death rate due to medical errors ranging from 0 percent to 7 percent. The excess 90-day readmission rate associated with medical errors ranged from 0 percent to 8 percent. Overall, 2 percent of costs, 11 percent of all deaths, and 2 percent of readmissions were likely due to medical errors.

"The effects of medical errors continue long after the patient leaves the hospital," Encinosa and Hellinger conclude. "Medical error studies that focus only on the inpatient stay can underestimate the impact of patient safety events by up to 20% to 30%."

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