Americans have reason to fear hospitals. Fatal medical errors lurk there. Humans are usually blamed, without reference to systemic and ergonomic failures behind the mistakes. Hospital administrators see technology as a convenient answer, and some researchers suggest their faith is misplaced.
Landmark research in 2000 revealed many thousands of Americans die each year because of medical mistakes. Alarm bells rang, and many hospitals made changes. In “Five Years After ‘To Err Is Human’: What Have We Learned?” researchers worry the changes have had little impact on the numbers. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), they reported that “as many as 98,000 people die in hospitals each year as a result of medical errors that could have been prevented.”
There are no figures for errors with adverse consequences short of death, or for near misses.
In most workplaces ergonomic failings mean only lost productivity. In hospitals, they can mean the difference between life and death.
This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2005-05-25.