Medical Errors are the Elephant in the Room

Jun 28, 2016

Did you know that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States?

Medical errors can include lapses in judgment, skill or coordination of care; mistaken diagnoses; system failures that lead to patient deaths or the failure to rescue dying patients; and preventable complications of care. Regardless of what the specific error is, there can be severe consequences to all parties involved. Although previous studies have identified medical errors as an issue, little has been done on a system wide basis to document and prevent them.

Recently, Dr. Martin Makary & Dr. Michael Daniel of Johns Hopkins University completed research that sheds a new light on medical errors.

What we know about medical errors

  • Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States.
  • Patient identification errors are one of the top 10 patient safety concerns for healthcare organizations in 2016, according to The Emergency Care Research Institute.
  • 10% of U.S. deaths annually are due to medical errors.
  • The study reports that the amount of deaths due to medical errors have been underestimated, as the number does not include data from deaths that occur in outpatient clinics, nursing homes, and other non-hospital settings where patients need complex care.

“Throughout the world, medical error leading to patient death is an under-recognized epidemic.”

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t require that medical errors be reported in the data collected for death certificates, but has acknowledged that medical errors are under-reported. Dr. Makary and Dr. Daniel are urging the CDC to make the change, to help make patient safety a nationwide priority.

What we know about medical errors and misidentification

  • 20% of CIO’s admit that patient identification errors have led to adverse medical events
  • 850 patients in the U.S. receive blood meant for someone else every year, 20 of them die as a result (Clinical Journal of Nursing)
  • 100% of infants discharged to the wrong family resulted from misidentification (Joint Commission)
  • 29% of medication errors result from misidentification (Patient Safety Authority)
  • 68% of all laboratory errors result from misidentification (VA Study)

Want to learn how your organizations can make an immediate impact in decreasing patient misidentification and improving overall patient safety?

Imprivata PatientSecure is a positive patient identification solution that uses palm vein recognition biometrics to accurately identify patients at any point of entry to care. Learn more here: