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Hosp Top. 2003 Summer;81(3):5-12.

Preventing errors in healthcare: a call for action.

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MPH Degree Program, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA.


Medical errors cause up to 98,000 people to die annually in the United States. They are the fifth leading cause of death and cost the United States dollar 29 billion annually (Kohn 1999). Medical errors fall into 4 main categories: diagnostic, treatment, preventative, and other. A review of literature reveals several proposed solutions to the medical error problem. One solution is to change the system for reporting medical errors. This would allow for the tracking of errors and provide information on potential problematic areas. A National Center for Patient Safety is proposed, which would set national goals towards medical errors. Another solution is the setting of performance standards among individual entities of healthcare delivery, such as hospitals and clinics. Another solution involves implementing a culture of safety among healthcare organizations. This would put the responsibility of safety on everyone in the organization. A change in education is yet another proposed solution. Informing medical students about errors and how to deal with them will help future physicians prevent such errors. The final solution involves improvements in information technology. These improvements will help track errors, but also will prevent errors. A combination of these solutions will change the focus of the healthcare industry toward safety and will eventually lead to billions in savings, but more importantly, the saving of lives.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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