Hospital medical error accounts for nearly one-sixth of all U.S. deaths each year. This preventable issue is a significant public safety concern. Read more about hospital medical error and the steps that facilities and organizations are taking to prevent it.
According to the Journal of Patient Safety, hospital medical error is the third leading cause of death in the United States. The journal’s 2013 report estimates that roughly 440,000 deaths per year, or one-sixth of all U.S. deaths, result from hospital medical error. In order to make hospitals safer and educate consumers, experts assert the need to measure and publish hospital safety data. By making this information readily available to the public, consumers can take hospital safety into their own hands.

Issues with Measuring Hospital Safety

One of the biggest obstacles for measuring hospital safety and hospital medical error is the lack of consistent and systematic data. It is difficult for several systems to use the same measures when gathering data and reaching conclusions on a hospital’s safety. As a result, information may be fragmented, incomplete, and irrelevant. Furthermore, it is difficult to determine which measures are best for reaching firm conclusions about hospital safety and hospital medical error.

Measuring Outcomes versus Processes

Many hospital ranking systems measure the processes that hospitals use to treat patients. These processes may include whether a patient’s temperature was monitored and stabilized during surgery, or whether a patient received blood clot prevention treatment after surgery. However, in order to determine hospital safety, consumers need information on outcomes as opposed to processes. For example, data on blood clot prevention strategies would be more relevant if consumers knew whether the treatment actually helped to prevent blood clots.

Hospital Safety Reporting Systems

There are several hospital reporting systems that can provide information on hospital safety and hospital medical error. Some provide free information, while others require a subscription. The main issue with different systems is that they classify and score hospitals based on differing criteria. As a result, the same hospital can be at the top of one list and the closer to the bottom on another.

Hospital Compare

Hospital Compare is operated by the federal government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Hospital Compare is one of the most developed systems for measuring and reporting hospital safety data, including hospital medical error. However, many argue that the rating system is too broad. It categorizes hospitals into three main categories: below average, average, and above average.

Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports is operated by Consumer’s Union. Consumer Reports classifies hospitals into more detail than Hospital Compare. It uses a five-category system. This reporting system focuses on reporting about hospital safety and quality of care.


Leapfrog assigns letter grades to hospitals. In addition to grades, more detail is available for consumers who would like to know more. Leapfrog releases data twice yearly. This system bases its scores on each hospital’s safety measures.

Preventing Hospital Medical Error

Experts believe that one of the best ways to improve hospital safety and prevent hospital medical error is to place more emphasis on hospital safety data. True improvements in hospital safety must be initiated among hospital personnel and the inner functioning of the hospital. Many assert that by exposing and emphasizing hospital safety data which may highlight hospital medical error, hospitals will be more motivated to correct issues and improve safety measures and systems. You can find Kenneth McKenna on Google+.