Ten years ago the Institute of Medicine (IOM) reported that up to 98,000 Americans were dying every year from preventable medical errors. The report was the target of criticism from skeptics who contended that the numbers were high, however the it did spur the formation of the modern patient safety movement.
So the question must be asked, has patient safety actually gotten better ten years after the IOM first brought the issue of preventable medical mistakes to light? According to a report issued in the policy journal Health Affairs, there have been improvements in error reporting and quality initiatives led by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and more.
However, despite some movement in the right direction, improvements in patient safety have stalled when it comes to the implementation of information technology improvements. It seems that IT improvements – which have great promise – have been stymied by organizations and companies that are slow to implement new technology, by the unintended consequences of this new technology, and by unexpected implementation challenges.
Another challenge is that there is no way for organizations to track safety information over time. No matter how hard hospitals and other medical groups try to improve patient care, it will be next to impossible to gauge their progress until they develop a meaningful way to measure improvements in the prevention of medical errors.