NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Medical Mistakes Are Growing

August 29, 2002

A growing number of medical experts say patients face increased risks in doctor's offices and outpatient surgery clinics. The news comes at a time when procedures are increasingly being performed on an outpatient basis.

  • According to the American Hospital Association, outpatient visits jumped to 521 million in 2000 from 202 million in 1980 -- while total inpatient admissions fell to 33 million from more than 36 million.
  • A study by the California Academy of Family Physicians reveals that 24 percent of errors in outpatient facilities involve faulty communications, 20 percent involved wrongfully discontinuing care and patient referrals.
  • Abnormalities of lab results, logistics and follow-up were the sources of 19 percent of errors.
  • Missing values and charting were involved in 13 percent of cases, while dosage errors and related problems were observed in 8 percent -- with another 8 percent attributed to clinical mistakes of knowledge or skill.

A report in the health-policy journal Health Affairs called for increased regulation of outpatient facilities, including requiring accreditation by one of the leading medical standards groups and demanding that cosmetic surgery centers not only be regulated but also be required to use licensed anesthesiologists.

New Jersey could act as a model. Since 1998 the state's medical board has set standards for care in doctors' offices and required that all deaths, complications or adverse events be reported.

Source: Laura Landro, "The Informed Patient: Deadly Errors Dog Procedures at Doctors' Offices and Clinics," Wall Street Journal, August 29, 2002.


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