TUESDAY, May 27, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly one in five
Medicare patients are victims of medical injuries that often aren't
related to their underlying disease or condition, according to new
The injuries included: being given the wrong medication, having
an allergic reaction to a medication, or receiving any treatment
that led to more complications of an existing medical problem.
"These injuries are caused by the medical care or management rather than any underlying disease," said lead researcher Mary Carter, director of the Gerontology Program at Towson University in Maryland.
About two-thirds of these injuries occurred during outpatient
care, rather than in the hospital, the study findings showed.
While there has been a great deal of effort in trying to
understand medical injury in hospitals, not as much has been done
in clinics, doctor's offices, outpatient surgery centers, emergency
rooms and nursing homes, noted Carter.
"To really improve our ability to prevent these types of adverse events, we have to focus at least as much on outpatient care as we do on inpatient care," Carter said.
Findings from the study were published online May 27 in the
Injury Prevention. It's important to note that while the
people in the study all had Medicare insurance, the study didn't
show that having Medicare insurance caused any of these
For the study, Carter and her colleagues collected data on more
than 12,500 Medicare patients who made claims between 1998 and
2005. Their average age was 76.
The researchers found that 19 percent of those included in the
study experienced at least one adverse medical event. That's higher
than previous research estimates that suggested the rate of adverse
medical events was probably around 13.5 percent for hospitalized
patients, according to background information in the study.
"The rate of these injuries is probably higher than has been estimated," she said.
Sixty-two percent of these injuries took place during outpatient
care, the investigators found.
Older people, men and those from lower-income backgrounds were
most at risk of an adverse medical event, the study authors found.
They also found that people who had chronic medical conditions or
who were disabled in some way were more at risk of a medical
Each additional month of age was associated with a 1 percent
increase in the risk of a medical injury. In addition, the risk of
experiencing an adverse medical event increased by 27 percent for
each chronic condition a person had, the report revealed.
The death rate among those who had experienced a medical injury
was nearly twice as high as among patients who hadn't had one,
The consequences of these injuries were lasting. "We are seeing
increased health care costs over a year following the injury with
the greater use of medical services," said Carter.
Dr. David Katz is director of the Yale University Prevention
Research Center and president of the American College of Lifestyle
Medicine. He said: "We have long known that medical care, while
pledged to avoid harm above all, actually imposes quite a bit of
it. Medical injury is all too common, and adverse effects of
treatment are common, even in the absence of error."
But, he added, a process of continuous assessment and
systems-level reform is needed to reduce medical errors to the
"There is also need to cultivate more health by living well," he said. "Medical injuries occurred in the context of treatment, and were more common with more serious conditions. That older patients with several chronic diseases and on multiple medications are more prone to adverse medical events is less than shocking."
For more about patient safety, visit the
National Patient Safety Foundation.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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