NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Hospital Care Fatal for Some Patients

November 16, 2010

An estimated 15,000 Medicare patients die each month in part because of care they receive in the hospital, says a government study released today.

The study is the first of its kind aimed at understanding "adverse events" in hospitals -- essentially, any medical care that causes harm to a patient, according to the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General.

Patients in the study, a nationally representative sample that focused on 780 Medicare patients discharged from hospitals in October 2008, suffered such problems as bed sores, infections and excessive bleeding from blood-thinning drugs, the report found. The federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality called the results "alarming."

Among the findings in the report obtained by USA Today:

  • Of the 780 cases, 12 patients died as a result of hospital care. Five were related to blood-thinning medication.
  • Two other medication-related deaths involved inadequate insulin management resulting in hypoglycemic coma and respiratory failure resulting from oversedation.
  • About one in seven Medicare hospital patients -- or about 134,000 of the estimated 1 million discharged in October 2008 -- were harmed from medical care.
  • Another one in seven experienced temporary harm because the problem was caught in time and reversed.

About 47 million Americans are enrolled in Medicare, a government health insurance program for people 65 and older and those of any age with kidney failure.

Source: Rita Rubin, "Hospital Care Fatal for Some Patients," USA Today, November 16, 2010.

For text:


Browse more articles on Health Issues