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Issue Position: Medical Errors and Health

Issue Position

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Issue Position: Medical Errors and Health

Summary

Medical errors account for nearly 100,000 American fatalities each year, making it the eighth leading cause of death in the United States. These preventable mistakes place patients at considerable risk, and result in billions of dollars wasted in health care costs.

Medical information technology (IT) offers an opportunity to contain and reduce costs, and save lives by improving the delivery of health care. Computerized medical records will help doctors to prescribe safe and appropriate medications, and will alert doctors and patients when particular screening tests are needed to prevent certain disorders. Health IT allows doctors to access a patient's entire medical record, getting the most complete representation of an individual's needs. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services predicts that improved health IT could save Americans $140 billion a year in health care costs.

Key Facts - Medical Errors

• According to a 1999 study conducted by the Institute for Medicine, medical errors are the eighth leading cause of death in the United States.

• Between 44,000 and 98,000 Americans die each year from inpatient medical errors.

• Nearly 30 percent of health care spending, or up to $300 billion each year, is for treatments that may not improve health status, may be redundant, or may be inappropriate for the patient's condition.

Key Facts - Health IT

• According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, health IT could save Americans $140 billion in health care costs each year.

• Computerized entry of physician orders such as prescriptions can reduce adverse drug reactions by 75 percent.

• Automated computerized reminders can increase physician use of recommended medical interventions by up to 46 percent.


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