KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Medical Error Tab Nearly $20 Billion; Study Says Catholic Hospitals Give Better Care

The Wall Street Journal Health Blog: A study by the Society of Actuaries has put the cost of medical errors in 2008 at nearly $20 billion. The study was "carried out by the actuarial and consulting firm Milliman, [and] is based on insurance claims data. The cost estimate includes medical costs, costs associated with increased mortality rate and lost productivity, and covers what the authors describe as a conservative estimate of 1.5 million measurable errors. The report estimates the errors caused more than 2,500 avoidable deaths and over 10 million lost days of work. … Bed sores - which are always considered to be the result of an error - produced the largest annual error cost, at almost $3.9 billion, followed by post-op infections ($3.7 billion), device complications ($1.1 billion), complications from failed spinal surgery ($1.1 billion) and hemorrhages ($960 million). To come up with those figures, researchers found the total cost of a given type of injury and estimated how often it was caused by an error" (Hobson, 8/9).

Another study, Crain's Detroit Business reports, has found that Catholic hospital systems deliver higher-quality care than other systems. The study was released by Thomson Reuters and "reviewed 255 U.S. health systems with two or more hospitals and grouped them into four types of ownership: Catholic, other church-owned, non-profit and for-profit. Of the four ownership types, for-profit health systems had the lowest performance, the study found." Catholic-owned systems had the highest quality. The study looked at mortality, complications, patient safety, length of stay and readmission rates among others to make its determination (Greene, 8/9).

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