A study on the economic burden of medical errors [PDF – 624 KB] found that medical errors and their adverse clinical consequences – bed sores, infections after surgery and mechanical complications of devices, implants or grafts, etc. – cost the US economy a staggering $19.5 billion in 2008.
Sponsored by the Society of Actuaries and conducted by actuarial and consulting firm Milliman, the study was based on insurance claims data. It included increased medical costs and costs associated with excess deaths and lost productivity, but not other significant costs such as those associated with malpractice suits, insurance payments, or prevention of further errors.
The researchers estimated that, in 2008 alone, medical errors resulted in 1.5 million medical injuries, more than 2500 avoidable deaths and at least 10 million lost days at work. Due to limited data from claim databases, the material costs related to medical errors are likely underestimated.
This study adds to the mounting evidence that medical errors not only harm and kill many patients but also have a considerable negative financial impact.