Study: Healthcare-Acquired Infections Account for 16% of Medical Errors


The results of a new study indicate that healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) are associated with nearly one in six incidents of preventable patient harm.

The research, published in The BMJ, examined 70 previously published studies covering more than 337,000 patients. Researchers concluded that about one in 10 patients are harmed when receiving care, and around one in 20 patients experience preventable harm. The proportion of severe preventable patient harm causing permanent disability or death was 12%. 

The researchers found that drug management incidents (25%) and other therapeutic management incidents (24%) accounted for the highest proportion of preventable patient harm. They were followed by incidents related to surgical procedures (23%), healthcare infections (16%) and diagnosis (16%).

The study was international, but Maria Panagioti, lead author and a senior lecturer at the University of Manchester, told NBC News that its findings would be applicable to the United States.

The researchers conclude, "Although a focus on preventable patient harm has been encouraged by the international patient safety policy agenda, there are limited quality improvement practices specifically targeting incidents of preventable patient harm rather than overall patient harm. Developing and implementing evidence-based mitigation strategies specifically targeting preventable patient harm could lead to major service quality improvements in medical care which could also be more cost effective."