Around one in 20 (6%) patients are affected by preventable harm in medical settings, suggests a new study published by the BMJ.
The researchers measured the prevalence of preventable patient harm across a range of medical settings, including hospitals and primary care, through a systematic review and meta-analysis of 70 international observational studies involving 337,025 patients.
Some 47,148 harmful incidents were identified in the pooled sample; 25,977 (55%) of which were preventable.
The pooled prevalence for preventable patient harm was 6 per cent (95% CI 5-7). A pooled proportion of 12 per cent (9-15%) of preventable patient harm was associated with prolonged, permanent disability or led to death.
Most commonly, preventable patient harm incidents were related to drugs (25%; 95% CI 16-34), other therapeutic management, and invasive medical and surgical procedures.
Preventable patient harm was more prevalent in patients treated in surgical and intensive care units compared with patients treated in general hospitals (most evidence).
The researchers said the findings “affirm that preventable patient harm is a serious problem across medical care settings. Priority areas are the mitigation of major sources of preventable patient harm (such as drug incidents) and greater focus on advanced medical specialties."