Chapter 8

Preventing Errors and Harm

A Serious Problem with Large, Unknowable Numbers

It is hard to know exactly how many patients are harmed by preventable errors or how many die as a result. Different studies use various methods to estimate the scale of the problem in different countries. A landmark 1999 Institute of Medicine (IOM) study said medical mistakes cause as many as 98,000 deaths a year in the United States.1 In 2014, Ashish Jha, MD, professor of health policy and management at Harvard School of Public Health, testified to a U.S. Senate subcommittee, saying, “The IOM probably got it wrong. It was clearly an underestimate of the toll of human suffering that goes on from preventable medical errors.”2

In 2013, the Journal of Patient ...

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