TUESDAY, April 8 (HealthDay News) -- From 2004 through 2006, patient safety errors resulted in 238,337 potentially preventable deaths of U.S. Medicare patients and cost the Medicare program $8.8 billion, according to the fifth annual Patient Safety in American Hospitals Study.
This analysis of 41 million Medicare patient records, released April 8 by HealthGrades, aorganization, found that patients treated at top-performing hospitals were, on average, 43 percent less likely to experience one or more medical errors than patients at the poorest-performing hospitals.
The overall medical error rate was about 3 percent for all Medicare patients, which works out to about 1.1 million patient safety incidents during the three years included in the analysis.
Among the other findings:
"While many U.S. hospitals have taken extensive action to prevent medical errors, the prevalence of likely preventable patient safety incidents is taking a costly toll on our health care systems -- in both lives and dollars," Dr. Samantha Collier, HealthGrades' chief medical officer and primary author of the study, said in a prepared statement.
"HealthGrades has documented in numerous studies the significant and largely unchanging gap between top-performing and poor-performing hospitals. It is imperative that hospitals recognize the benchmarks set by the Distinguished Hospitals for Patient Safety are achievable and associated with higher safety and markedly lower cost," Collier said.
Starting Oct. 1, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will stop reimbursing hospitals for the treatment of eight major preventable errors, including objects left in the body after surgery and certain kinds of post-surgical infections.