NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Cost of Hospital Errors

October 8, 2003

Preventable medical injuries in U.S. hospitals cause unnecessary deaths and add to hospital stays, says a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

According to the researchers from the Center for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

  • More than 32,000 Americans each year die as a result of such medical errors.
  • Nationwide, such injuries result in about 2.4 million extra days in the hospital and $9.3 billion in extra charges every year.
  • The number one problem they found was potentially deadly blood infections after surgery, which increase the risk of dying by 22 percent, lengthens hospital stays an average of 11 days and raises hospital bills by $58,000.
  • Reopening a wound after surgery, often because of an infection, results in patients spending 10 extra days in the hospital and raises the cost $40,000.
  • Leaving a medical instrument or sponge in a patient's body often leads to two extra hospital days and $13,000 in additional charges.

Source: Kathleen Fackelmann,"Medical injuries wreak havoc beyond patients' pain and suffering," USA Today, October 8, 2003; see Chunliu Zhan and Marlene R. Miller, "Excess Length of Stay, Charges, and Mortality Attributable to Medical Injuries During Hospitalization," Journal of the American Medical Association, October 8, 2003.

For JAMA article


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