Today in the chart

Inpatient vs. Outpatient: Which is Associated with More Preventable Medical Errors?

Primary and outpatient settings provide the bulk of health care — but do they account for the bulk of errors?

When you think of preventable medical errors — which kill between 210,000 and 440,000 people every year — the image of a clinician moving quickly in a crowded ICU may come to mind. These situations don’t lead to many more mistakes than in primary care and outpatient settings. According to a recent report from the World Health Organization, roughly 4 out of 10 patients globally are harmed in primary and outpatient healthcare, where the bulk of services are offered. Moreover, up to 80% of the harm was likely preventable, authors of the report titled “Ten Facts on Patient Safety” note. “The most detrimental errors are related to diagnosis, prescription, and the use of medicines,” they add. What’s more, primary and outpatient errors directly contribute to the number of people admitted as inpatients. They account for 6% of hospital-bed days and 7 million admissions across the 36 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Some other interesting facts from the report:

One in Every Ten Patients is Harmed While Receiving Hospital Care

Nearly 50% of these adverse events are considered preventable. About 30% of them are associated with the patient’s death.

Adverse Events Due to Unsafe Care Are a Leading Cause of Death (Possibly Among the Top Ten) Around the World

According to recent research, roughly 134 million adverse events occur yearly due to unsafe care in hospitals in low- and middle-income countries, resulting in 2.6 million deaths annually.

Investing in Preventing Medical Errors Costs Much Less Than Treatment Due to Harm

Between 2010 and 2015, the US prioritized safety improvements in Medicare hospitals, saving $28 billion.

Diagnostic Errors Occur in Five Percent of US Adults in Outpatient Care Settings

In the United States, autopsy research shows that diagnostic errors contribute to 10% of patient deaths. Similarly, EMR data shows diagnostic errors account for 6 to 17% of all hospital harmful events.

Healthcare-Associated Infections Affect Up to 10 Percent of Hospitalized Patients

This stat drops to 7% in high-income countries and rises to 10% in low-income ones. Regardless of a country’s income level, appropriate interventions, like hand hygiene, can reduce HAI rates by up to 55%.

More Than 1 Million Patients Die Annually From Complications Due to Surgery

Unsafe surgical care procedures cause complications in up to 25% of patients. Almost 7 million surgical patients suffer significant complications annually, 1 million of whom die during or immediately following surgery.

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