An alarming new government study shows that an estimated 15,000 Medicare patients die each month as a result of hospital care. Medication errors account for more than half of these deaths.
The study, released last week by the Department of Health and Human Services, is the first of its kind. It randomly sampled a nationally representative group of 780 Medicare patients who were discharged from hospitals in October 2008. The most frequent problems included excessive bleeding from blood-thinning drugs, as well as bed sores and hospital infections. Although not every medical mistake proved fatal, one out of every seven Medicare patients were harmed to some extent by medical care. These adverse medical errors result in at least $4.4 billion to government health care costs every year.
A USA Today report chronicling the harmful medical mistakes Medicare patients suffer cited Director Arthur Levine from the independent Center for Medical Consumers, who said that the findings "tell us exactly what some of us have been afraid of, that we have not made much progress."