Playing it safe

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Bad news and healthcare seem to be synonymous these days but lately we’ve been hearing a lot about patient safety in the news and that’s a very good thing. A landmark study, the first national study of patient safety in Canadian hospitals [the Canadian Adverse Events Study] was recently released with some startling results.

Nearly a quarter of Canadian adults (5.2 million people) reported that they, or a member of their family, have experienced a preventable adverse event. The study defines an adverse event as an “unintended injury or complication resulting in death, disability or prolonged hospital stay caused by health-care management rather than the patient’s underlying condition.”

Five per cent of patients who experienced adverse events were judged to have a permanent disability. Adverse events were associated with death in 1.6 per cent of patients admitted to acute care hospitals. And, perhaps the most shocking statistic of all, researchers estimated that 37% or 70,000 of these adverse events were preventable. Basically that means that far too many people are entering hospitals sick only to become sicker, permanently disabled or die unnecessarily.