Avoidable medical errors cost $19.5 billion annually

A new study commissioned by the Society of Actuaries looks at the cost of avoidable medical mistakes and quantifies the economic impact of such mistakes as $19.5 billion annually. Here is a description of the study from the Wall Street Journal:

Medical errors and the problems they can cause — including bed sores, post-op infections and implant or device complications — cost the U.S. economy $19.5 billion in 2008, according to a study released today. (That’s enough to buy almost 1.3 billion copies of The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande’s bestseller on reducing such errors via the lowly checklist.)

The study, commissioned by the Society of Actuaries and carried out by the actuarial and consulting firm Milliman, 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.

The Hill also picks up on this story. Here’s an excerpt:

Preventable medical errors cost the country $19.5 billion in 2008 — or roughly $13,000 for each avoidable case, according to a report published Monday by the Society of Actuaries (SOA).

And that number is likely low, according to consultants at Milliman, who crunched the data. 

“We used a conservative methodology and still found 1.5 million measureable medical errors occurred in 2008,” says Jonathan Shreve, an actuary for Milliman who co-authored of the report. “This number includes only the errors that we could identify through claims data, so the total economic impact of medical errors is in fact greater than what we have reported.”

Read the study here.

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