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‘Adverse Events’ Drop In U.S. Hospitals

Researchers recently published the largest ever medical record-based study of hospitalized patients and adverse events they faced while sick. The findings were optimistic: the rate of such negative events over the last 10 years has significantly dropped.

Authors of the study combed through anonymous medical records of more than 244,000 patients across 3,156 hospitals since 2010. They used the Medicare Patient Safety Monitoring System (MPSMS), which helps surveil the health and safety of patients with key medical conditions like heart failure, pneumonia, and others, to gather data. The results were a resounding success story for both the safety of patients and the effectiveness of hospital patient safety initiatives.

Some examples of the adverse events captured included drug events like allergic reactions, hospital-acquired infections, procedural complications, pressure ulcers, and patient falls.

“Our study is the biggest and most comprehensive assessment of adverse events in patients hospitalized in the U.S. that is based on detailed analysis of the medical record as opposed to billing data, which can be misleading,” said co-author Dr. Mark Metersky, professor of medicine at UConn School of Medicine and chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at UConn Health. “There has been an improvement in patient safety in U.S. hospitals during the 10 years we studied. Our data shows that the major safety improvement efforts made by our country and our hospitals seems to be paying off.”

Patients who experienced adverse events had substantially higher mortality rates and longer lengths of stays than those that did not experience a similar event

The data was split into adverse events per 1,000 in-hospital visits for each major type of hospital admission. For example, researchers grouped all patients suffering from heart failure into the same vertical column, then analyzed the wide array of possible adverse events that affected those specific patients. In nearly all patient verticals analyzed, the rate of adverse events per 1,000 patients dropped down to around 10 percent. For comparison’s sake, back in 2010 many of those verticals reported rates close to 20 percent.

Researchers also said they tried to account for all variables, like comorbidities and patient age, in the study; but that blind spots will always exist for a study of this nature.

As far as demographics, researchers found that all types of patients from all types of backgrounds experienced lowered rates of adverse events. Older patients tended to see higher improvement rates than younger patients, though, which surprised the research team.

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