118,000 adverse events occur in hospitals each day

Most adverse events occur in low- or middle-income countries

A new study in BMJ Quality & Safety finds that nearly 43 million adverse events occur during the 421 million hospitalizations across the globe each year, and those events have a major impact on the lives of patients.

For the study, Harvard School of Public Health researchers used data from more than 4,000 studies and articles published since 1976, as well as data from the World Health Organization (WHO). They studied seven common adverse events:

  • Hospital-acquired pneumonia cases;
  • Catheter-related urinary tract infections;
  • Bloodstream infections;
  • Blood clots in veins;
  • Medication errors;
  • Patient falls; and
  • Pressure ulcers.

Of the 42.7 million adverse events that occur each year in hospitals around the world, researchers determined that about 16.8 million occur in high-income countries, while 25.9 million occur in low- and middle-income countries. In high-income countries, medication errors were the most-common adverse event, while blood clots are the most common adverse events in low- to middle-income countries.

To assess the impact of the adverse events on patients, researchers used the "disability-adjusted life years" (DALYs) metric, a measure of the years of healthy life lost due to an illness, disability, or early death. They found that adverse events results in 23 million DALYs lost per year.  

"These findings are an important sign that we need to invest in improving the quality and safety of health care systems around the globe," lead author David Bates said.

"When patients are sick, they should not be further harmed by unsafe care," the authors wrote, adding that "[t]his should be a major policy emphasis for all nations" (Medical News Today, 9/19; Scutti, Medical Daily, 9/18).


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