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Updated 23 September 2013

Millions harmed in hospitals each year

Substandard hospital care caused nearly 17 million cases of harm in high-income countries, and nearly 26 million cases of harm in low- and middle-income countries.

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Substandard hospital care caused nearly 17 million cases of harm in high-income countries, and nearly 26 million cases of harm in low- and middle-income countries.

The review authors focused on seven key facets of poor care: harm from prescribed drugs; catheter-associated urinary tract infections; catheter-associated bloodstream infections; hospital-acquired pneumonia; blood clots; falls; and bedsores.

Substandard hospital care

Substandard hospital care caused nearly 17 million cases of harm in high-income countries, and nearly 26 million cases of harm in low- and middle-income countries.

In high-income countries, the most common type of substandard care involved harm from medicines, which occurred in 5% of hospital stays. In low- and middle-income countries, blood clots were the most common issue, occurring in 3% of hospital stays, the investigators found.

Substandard hospital care resulted in 22.6 million years of life lost to death or disability. Low- and middle-income countries had twice as many years lost to death or disability as high-income countries – 15.5 million versus 7.2 million – according to the study published online on 18 September in the journal BMJ Quality & Safety.

Premature death accounted for the largest proportion of years of life lost to death or disability for all seven facets of poor hospital care – more than 80% in low- and middle-income countries and more than 78% in high-income countries, according to a journal news release.

All patients should be able to rely on safe and high-quality care when they're in a hospital, concluded researchers Dr Ashish Jha, at the Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues.

"When patients are sick, they should not be further harmed by unsafe care," they wrote, adding: "This should be a major policy emphasis for all nations."

More information

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality offers tips for choosing quality health care.

 
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