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      Preventable deaths due to problems in care in English acute hospitals: a retrospective case record review study

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          Abstract

          Introduction

          Monitoring hospital mortality rates is widely recommended. However, the number of preventable deaths remains uncertain with estimates in England ranging from 840 to 40 000 per year, these being derived from studies that identified adverse events but not whether events contributed to death or shortened life expectancy of those affected.

          Methods

          Retrospective case record reviews of 1000 adults who died in 2009 in 10 acute hospitals in England were undertaken. Trained physician reviewers estimated life expectancy on admission, to identified problems in care contributing to death and judged if deaths were preventable taking into account patients' overall condition at that time.

          Results

          Reviewers judged 5.2% (95% CI 3.8% to 6.6%) of deaths as having a 50% or greater chance of being preventable. The principal problems associated with preventable deaths were poor clinical monitoring (31.3%; 95% CI 23.9 to 39.7), diagnostic errors (29.7%; 95% CI 22.5% to 38.1%), and inadequate drug or fluid management (21.1%; 95% CI 14.9 to 29.0). Extrapolating from these figures suggests there would have been 11 859 (95% CI 8712 to 14 983) adult preventable deaths in hospitals in England. Most preventable deaths (60%) occurred in elderly, frail patients with multiple comorbidities judged to have had less than 1 year of life left to live.

          Conclusions

          The incidence of preventable hospital deaths is much lower than previous estimates. The burden of harm from preventable problems in care is still substantial. A focus on deaths may not be the most efficient approach to identify opportunities for improvement given the low proportion of deaths due to problems with healthcare.

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          Most cited references 20

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          The nature of adverse events in hospitalized patients. Results of the Harvard Medical Practice Study II.

          In a sample of 30,195 randomly selected hospital records, we identified 1133 patients (3.7 percent) with disabling injuries caused by medical treatment. We report here an analysis of these adverse events and their relation to error, negligence, and disability. Two physician-reviewers independently identified the adverse events and evaluated them with respect to negligence, errors in management, and extent of disability. One of the authors classified each event according to type of injury. We tested the significance of differences in rates of negligence and disability among categories with at least 30 adverse events. Drug complications were the most common type of adverse event (19 percent), followed by wound infections (14 percent) and technical complications (13 percent). Nearly half the adverse events (48 percent) were associated with an operation. Adverse events during surgery were less likely to be caused by negligence (17 percent) than nonsurgical ones (37 percent). The proportion of adverse events due to negligence was highest for diagnostic mishaps (75 percent), noninvasive therapeutic mishaps ("errors of omission") (77 percent), and events occurring in the emergency room (70 percent). Errors in management were identified for 58 percent of the adverse events, among which nearly half were attributed to negligence. Although the prevention of many adverse events must await improvements in medical knowledge, the high proportion that are due to management errors suggests that many others are potentially preventable now. Reducing the incidence of these events will require identifying their causes and developing methods to prevent error or reduce its effects.
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            Adverse events in British hospitals: preliminary retrospective record review.

            To examine the feasibility of detecting adverse events through record review in British hospitals and to make preliminary estimates of the incidence and costs of adverse events. Retrospective review of 1014 medical and nursing records. Two acute hospitals in Greater London area. Number of adverse events. 110 (10.8%) patients experienced an adverse event, with an overall rate of adverse events of 11.7% when multiple adverse events were included. About half of these events were judged preventable with ordinary standards of care. A third of adverse events led to moderate or greater disability or death. These results suggest that adverse events are a serious source of harm to patients and a large drain on NHS resources. Some are major events; others are frequent, minor events that go unnoticed in routine clinical care but together have massive economic consequences.
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              Incidence and types of adverse events and negligent care in Utah and Colorado.

              The ongoing debate on the incidence and types of iatrogenic injuries in American hospitals has been informed primarily by the Harvard Medical Practice Study, which analyzed hospitalizations in New York in 1984. The generalizability of these findings is unknown and has been questioned by other studies. We used methods similar to the Harvard Medical Practice Study to estimate the incidence and types of adverse events and negligent adverse events in Utah and Colorado in 1992. We selected a representative sample of hospitals from Utah and Colorado and then randomly sampled 15,000 nonpsychiatric 1992 discharges. Each record was screened by a trained nurse-reviewer for 1 of 18 criteria associated with adverse events. If > or =1 criteria were present, the record was reviewed by a trained physician to determine whether an adverse event or negligent adverse event occurred and to classify the type of adverse event. The measures were adverse events and negligent adverse events. Adverse events occurred in 2.9+/-0.2% (mean+/-SD) of hospitalizations in each state. In Utah, 32.6+/-4% of adverse events were due to negligence; in Colorado, 27.4+/-2.4%. Death occurred in 6.6+/-1.2% of adverse events and 8.8+/-2.5% of negligent adverse events. Operative adverse events comprised 44.9% of all adverse events; 16.9% were negligent, and 16.6% resulted in permanent disability. Adverse drug events were the leading cause of nonoperative adverse events (19.3% of all adverse events; 35.1% were negligent, and 9.7% caused permanent disability). Most adverse events were attributed to surgeons (46.1%, 22.3% negligent) and internists (23.2%, 44.9% negligent). The incidence and types of adverse events in Utah and Colorado in 1992 were similar to those in New York State in 1984. Iatrogenic injury continues to be a significant public health problem. Improving systems of surgical care and drug delivery could substantially reduce the burden of iatrogenic injury.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                BMJ Qual Saf
                BMJ Qual Saf
                qshc
                qhc
                BMJ quality & safety
                BMJ Group (BMA House, Tavistock Square, London, WC1H 9JR )
                2044-5415
                2044-5423
                September 2012
                7 July 2012
                : 21
                : 9
                : 737-745
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Health Services Research & Policy, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK
                [2 ]National Patient Safety Agency, London, UK
                [3 ]Clinical Safety Research Unit, Imperial College, London, UK
                [4 ]Institute of Health and Society, University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
                Author notes
                [Correspondence to ] Dr Helen Hogan, Clinical Lecturer in UK Public Health, Department of Health Services Research & Policy, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, 15-17 Tavistock Place, London WC1H 9SH, UK; helen.hogan@ 123456lshtm.ac.uk
                Article
                bmjqs-2012-001159
                10.1136/bmjqs-2011-001159
                3436096
                22927487
                © 2012, Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already granted under a licence) please go to http://group.bmj.com/group/rights-licensing/permissions.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ and http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/legalcode.

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                Public health

                patient safety, medical errors, hospital mortality, adverse events

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