Published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, this concerning study found that seven percent of all inpatient hospital admissions feature at least one preventable adverse event, and that nearly a quarter of all adverse events are preventable, with drug administration errors the most frequent. While the complexities behind studying adverse events make it difficult to measure progress over time, the authors assert that these episodes are still far too common, and advocate for establishing standard approaches to measure the frequency of adverse events more reliably.
The Gist: Health systems had been making at least some progress in their decades-long effort to reduce adverse events before COVID turned the industry upside down, drawing clinical leaders’ focus to the crisis and upending industry benchmarks.
Today’s short-staffed, traveler-dependent labor force presents yet another challenge to hospitals aiming to achieve quality benchmarks. COVID has also accelerated the outpatient shift, heightening the importance of tracking quality metrics in non-hospital settings.
As more complex procedures are performed in ambulatory surgery centers, and more hospital care is administered at home, there’s also a concern that hospital-based quality measures are not telling the whole story on the state of patient safety.
A rethinking of quality metrics and processes to measure and prevent adverse events across the continuum is long overdue.