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Hospital errors are costing $17 billion a year

A doctor cares for a patient at a hospital in Panorama City, Calif.

Steve Chiotakis: There's a study out today in the journal Health Affairs that finds the rate of hospital errors is ten times what's been measured in the past. And a third of all admissions lead to a complication caused by medical care.

Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman reports, it's a multi-billion-dollar problem.


Mitchell Hartman: Dr. David Classen is at the University of Utah. His team analyzed individual patient records at three large hospitals, looking for medical mistakes.

David Classen: These are significant events, because it's not: 'They gave me a pill and I got a stomach ache. They gave me a pill and I started throwing up blood and they had to treat me.

It's a more rigorous method than most hospitals use -- they typically rely on voluntary reporting by medical staff, or on insurance claims.

Dr. John Santa of Consumer Reports says the problem costs at least $17 billion a year.

John Santa: We have an expensive system, and increasingly we know it's expensive because there's many mistakes.

According to another study in Health Affairs, the most expensive hospital-caused complications come from incorrect medication, post-operative infections and bedsores.

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.
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I do not like this story. The reporting is extremely shallow and leads to misinformation.

Read one of the conclusions from The Health Affairs article for yourself (pasted below) and you will find that the blame cannot be put on hospitals alone. I suspect that morbid obesity accounts for a large portion of those pressure ulcers.

"Pressure ulcers, the most frequent medical error we identified, deserve a special note here. The National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel, a group of experts on the prevention and treatment of pressure ulcers, released a statement saying that some of the ulcers are unavoidable, either because patients do not help prevent them or because of underlying clinical issues. Although many of the ulcers are still considered preventable, this might not always be the case. Preventive measures, such as turning patients, should still be undertaken to a greater degree, but these measures might not be adequate for prevention in all cases."

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