Data Sources

View statistic citations from recent studies on patient safety issues.

1Study Suggests Medical Errors Now Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.

Release Date: May 3, 2016

  • 10 percent of all U.S. deaths are now due to medical error.  Click to Tweet
  • Third highest cause of death in the U.S. is medical error. Click to Tweet
  • Medical errors are an under-recognized cause of death.  Click to Tweet

Analyzing medical death rate data over an eight-year period, Johns Hopkins patient safety experts have calculated that more than 250,000 deaths per year are due to medical error in the U.S. Their figure, published May 3 in The BMJ, surpasses the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) third leading cause of death — respiratory disease, which kills close to 150,000 people per year.

NOTE: In 2020, it is expected that Covid-19 will be the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S.

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2One out of 25 Patients Suffers a Hospital Acquired Infection (HAI)

Release Date: September 2019

Health care–associated infections (HAIs) are among the most common complications of hospital care. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at any given time, approximately 1 of every 25 hospitalized patients in the United States has an HAI, meaning that nearly 650,000 patients contract one of these infections annually.

More than one million HAIs occur across the United States health care system every year. These infections can lead to significant morbidity and mortality, with tens of thousands of lives lost each year.

HAIs are estimated to cost billions of dollars annually. Such infections were long accepted by clinicians as an inevitable hazard of hospitalization. However, it is now understood that relatively straightforward approaches can prevent many common HAIs. As a result, hospitals and clinicians are prioritizing efforts to reduce the burden of these infections. 

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3Why Patients are at Risk for Deadly Blood Clots

Last reviewed by CDC: January 2020

Each year, VTE affects as many as 900,000 Americans, resulting in about 100,000 premature deaths.1-2 The associated health care costs $10 billion or more each year in the United States.1

More and more people living in the United States have factors that increase their risk for a VTE. Without improvements and consistent use of strategies to prevent VTE, we expect the number of people affected by VTE to increase.

Although anyone can develop a blood clot, over half of blood clots are related to a recent hospitalization or surgery and most of these do not occur until after discharge. 3-6

A recent analysis of the National Hospital Discharge Survey (NHDS) found that each year during 2007-2009, there were on average nearly 550,000 U.S. hospitalizations of adults that had a discharge diagnosis of VTE7.

Fortunately, many cases of HA-VTE can be prevented. However, proven strategies to prevent HA-VTE are not being consistently or regularly applied across and within healthcare settings. Reports suggest that as many as 70% of cases of HA-VTE in patients could be prevented.8-10 Despite this finding, fewer than half of hospitalized patients receive appropriate prevention measures.11

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4Medication Errors Claim Upwards of 9000 Lives Every Year

Release Date: June 2020

Each year, in the United States alone, 7,000 to 9,000 people die as a result of a medication error. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of other patients experience but often do not report an adverse reaction or other complication related to a medication.

The total cost of looking after patients with medication-associated errors exceeds $40 billion each year. In addition to the monetary cost, patients experience psychological and physical pain and suffering as a result of medication errors. Finally, a major consequence of medication errors is that it leads to decreased patients satisfaction and a growing lack of trust in the healthcare system. 

Medication errors can occur at many steps in patient care, from the point of ordering the medication to the time when the patient is administered the drug. In general, medication errors usually, occur at one of these points:

  • Ordering/Prescribing
  • Documenting
  • Transcribing
  • Dispensing
  • Administering
  • Monitoring

Medication errors are most common at the ordering or prescribing stage. Typical errors include the healthcare provider writing the wrong medication, wrong route or dose, or the wrong frequency. These ordering errors account for almost 50% of medication errors.

Data show that nurses and pharmacists identify anywhere from 30% to 70% of medication-ordering errors. It is obvious that medication errors are a pervasive problem, but in the majority of cases, the problem is preventable. 

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5Urinary Tract Infections: 9000 More Lives Claimed

Release Date: October 2015

Between 15% and 25% of hospitalized patients may receive short-term indwelling urinary catheters.12,13 In many cases, catheters are placed for inappropriate indications, and healthcare providers are often unaware that their patients have catheters, leading to prolonged, unnecessary us.

An estimated 17% to 69% of CAUTI may be preventable with recommended infection control measures, which means that up to 380,000 infections and 9000 deaths related to CAUTI per year could be prevented.22

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6Pressure Ulcers: AKA “Bed Sores” — Painful, Deadly and Preventable

Release Date: June 2020

Pressure injuries are listed as the direct cause of death in 7-8% of all patients with paraplegia. [53, 41] As many as one third of hospitalized patients with pressure injuries die during their hospitalization.

More than half of those who develop a pressure injury in the hospital will die within the next 12 months. As a rule, these patients die of their primary disease process rather than of pressure ulceration, but the pressure injury may be a contributing factor in some instances.

Each year, approximately 60,000 people die of complications of pressure injuries. [54] Individuals with pressure ulcers have a 4.5-times greater risk of death than persons with the same risk factors but without pressure injuries. [8] A secondary complication, wound-related bacteremia, can increase the risk of mortality to 55%. [54, 55, 56, 57]

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720% of Patients are Back in the Hospital Within 30 Days

Updated: September 2019

Being discharged from the hospital can be dangerous. A classic study found that nearly 20% of patients experience adverse events within 3 weeks of discharge, nearly three-quarters of which could have been prevented or ameliorated.

Adverse drug events are the most common post-discharge complication, with hospital-acquired infections and procedural complications also causing considerable morbidity. More subtle discharge hazards arise from the fact that nearly 40% of patients are discharged with test results pending, and a comparable proportion are discharged with a plan to complete the diagnostic workup as an outpatient, placing patients at risk unless timely and complete follow-up is ensured. In addition, there is increasing concern that the stressful hospital environment may lead to post-hospitalization syndrome — a pathophysiologic syndrome of weakness and increased stress that may leave patients vulnerable to clinical adverse events such as falls and infections.

As nearly 20% of Medicare patients are rehospitalized within 30 days of discharge, minimizing post-discharge adverse events has become a priority for the US health care system.