A new study published in BMJ highlights the alarming prevalence of preventable harm in medicine, with around one in 20 patients being exposed to it in medical care.
Researchers performed a meta-analysis of 66 studies reporting 70 samples (n=337,025) identified through a literature search on Medline, PubMed, PsycINFO, CINAHL, Embase, WHOLIS, Google Scholar and SIGLE databases.
A total of 47,148 harmful incidents were identified across the pooled sample. The pooled prevalence of preventable patient harm was 6 per cent (95% CI, 5-7%). Nearly 12 per cent (95% CI, 9-15%) of preventable patient harm resulted in permanent disability or patient death. The majority of preventable harm incidents were associated with drugs (25%; 95% CI, 16-34%) and other treatments (24%; 95% CI, 21-30%). The prevalence of preventable patient harm was significantly higher in advanced specialties such as intensive care or surgery than in general hospitals.
"Our findings provide a useful agenda of priority areas for mitigating preventable patient harm," the authors said. They emphasise that improved assessment and reporting standards of preventability in future research is crucial for reducing patient harm.