IOM: Medication Errors Rampant, And Preventable

The Institute of Medicine periodically unveils research that resonates long after thousands of other studies and reports published each year about health care have been ground to a pulp for the benefit of the planet, if not planetary intelligence. Crossing the Quality Chasm and To Err Is Human — they have become classics in the health care literature.

There is no way to determine whether the recently released Preventing Medication Errors will attain such lofty heights, though it certainly made at least a splash when it was released July 20. By now, most in health care are familiar with the bullet points: 1.5 million harmed or killed each year due to medication error; at least one medication error per hospital patient per day; 400,000 preventable injuries or deaths in hospitals, 800,000 in nursing homes and long-term facilities; confusing drug labels and packaging.

Despite these eye-popping stats, there doesn't seem to be much for health plans. Sure, there is the usual admonition, voiced this time by Albert Wu, a drug safety expert at Johns Hopkins University and member of the IOM panel that created the report, that "Everyone in the health care system has to wake up and take this more seriously."

Most of the focus seems to be on hospitals and physicians. Just how insurers can help has yet to be revealed, though that advice will most likely be forthcoming. History tells us as much.

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