Senator Barbara Boxer Releases New Report on Medical Errors

According to Researchers, Between 210,000 and 440,000 People Die Every Year from Errors in Hospitals that Could Have Been Prevented

Washington, D.C. –Today in Los Angeles, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) released a new report detailing the most common and harmful errors at our nation’s hospitals and what hospitals in California are doing to prevent them.

“We have the opportunity to save not just one life, but to save hundreds of thousands of lives. Many people will be shocked to hear this, but medical errors are one of the leading causes of death in America today,” Senator Boxer said. “These deaths are all the more heartbreaking for families because they are preventable.”

Every year, between 210,000 and 440,000 Americans die as a result of preventable errors in hospitals, such as hospital-acquired infections, adverse drug reactions, patient falls and bedsores – numbers equivalent to a jumbo jet crashing every day with no survivors. Research has also found that the direct costs of medical errors total $19.5 billion annually and that the economic costs of medical errors, including lost productivity, could be as much as $1 trillion a year.

“We cannot turn away from this challenge. If anyone of us were on the street corner and saw someone about to step off the curb and get hit by a bus, what would we do? We would pull them back from disaster. We have that chance today. We have the opportunity to pull more than 200,000 people back from disaster every year by preventing medical errors,” Senator Boxer said. “If we all work together – doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, patients, patient advocates, medical technology pioneers, public health experts and federal officials – we can prevent so much heartbreak for families and stop these tragedies before they occur.”

In February, Senator Boxer wrote to 283 California acute care hospitals asking them to respond with the actions they are taking to reduce medical errors. At an event today at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Boxer unveiled a staff report based on responses received from 149 hospitals, highlighting the steps that California hospitals like UCLA are taking to address these errors as well as call on hospitals nationwide to do more to prevent these needless tragedies.

Here are some of the major findings from the report:

–All of the hospitals that responded reported taking at least some steps to address the most common medical errors.

–Many hospitals agree on common approaches to reducing these errors, which are outlined in this report.

–For example, many hospitals are helping to prevent pneumonia among patients on ventilators by keeping patients’ heads elevated 30-45 degrees.

–Some hospitals are stepping out and pursuing unique approaches to preventing these errors. For example, Kaiser Permanente requires nurses to wear colored sashes or vests when dispensing medication to patients to prevent interruptions and distractions that could lead to errors.

–UCLA Medical Center disinfects hospital rooms using ultraviolet technology, prohibits the use of home-laundered scrubs, and bans doctors and other staff with open wounds, bandages or casts from scrubbing into surgeries to help prevent infection.

–And Desert Valley Hospital in Victorville reported that it reduced the number of surgical site infections from 16 in 2009 to 2 in 2013 after starting an innovative program that rewards medical staff who are observed practicing good hand hygiene by entering them into a drawing for a chance to win a prize.

Many more examples of how hospitals are responding to this epidemic are contained in the full report. The report also makes recommendations for how hospitals, federal agencies and Congress can work together to improve patient safety.

“I will be sending this report to all the hospitals – the ones that participated and the ones that did not. I urge those hospitals that chose not to respond to my request to do so now,” Senator Boxer said. “This is not the time to sit back and do nothing. Lives are at stake.”

To read and download a copy of the report, click here.

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