The Daily

Metrics For A New ‘Patient-Centric’ Safety Movement

Johns Hopkins Library
Johns Hopkins Library

According to the Institute of Medicine in the 1990’s, an estimated 100,000 people died as a result of medical mistakes every year in the U.S. (a number that has more than doubled, according to a new study by Johns Hopkins University). The Institute of Medicine (IOM) is a Congressionally mandated, non-profit research body. Their initial report in the late 1990’s was alarming to the general population, but only confirmed what many inside the medical community have known for some time.

Since the original IOM report, additional studies have confirmed that the harm done by medical error is underestimated and growing. A study done at Johns Hopkins University in 2016 urged the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to list medical errors as the number three cause of death in the United States.[1] Only cancer and heart disease kill more people, according to the Johns Hopkins researchers – 250,000 die from medical errors every year in the United States. To make matters worse, the record of these deaths are often inaccurate, making complete tabulation difficult. One recommendation made by Johns Hopkins is to have CDC add medical error to its annual list reporting the top causes of death.

The Centers for Disease Control instruct Doctors to list only medical conditions as the underlying cause of death on death certificates, a definition that excludes medical errors.[2]

The original IOM report was followed up with another report that was equally alarming. IOM found and reported that racial and ethnic disparity exists in the delivery of health care regardless of income or insurance coverage.

“Disparities in the health care delivered to racial and ethnic minorities are real and are associated with worse outcomes in many cases, which is unacceptable,” said Dr. Alan Nelson, chairman of the Committee on Understanding and Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care.

According to one review of the report, blacks or African-Americans often get second class care resulting in higher death rates from HIV/AIDS, cancer and heart disease.[3]

The IOM report cited time pressures on physicians, provider bias against minorities, language barriers and geographic proximity as explanations for these unreported deaths from medical error.

Review the article “Making it possible for Hospitals to be honest about medical errors “… because they are not

Honesty and transparency enforced according guidelines recommended by the CDC would spur a new ‘patient-centric’ movement to improve safety, mortality and outcomes.

For more on the topic read “Study Urges CDC to Revise Count of Deaths from Medical Errors”

[1] ProPublica, Patient Safety: Exploring Quality of Care in the US, May 3, 2016;

[2] Id.

[3] CNN report, March 20, 2002, “Report Finds Minorities Get Poorer Health Care”, Rhea Blakey.