Inaccurate diagnoses, medication errors, unsafe clinical facilities and inappropriate or unnecessary treatments are happening around the world regardless of a country’s wealth, according to a new joint report by the World Health Organization, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Bank.
Though a more significant problem in low- and middle-income countries, hospital-acquired infections and patients harmed during medical treatment is also a problem for high-income countries, the paper found.
According to the report, 10% of patients in high-income countries are harmed during medical treatment. Also, 15% of hospital expenditures in those countries come from mistakes or patients being infected while hospitalized.
The three organizations said that, despite improvements, poor-quality care is still costing billions of dollars through long-term disability, impairment and lost productivity.
The new report said that 7% of hospitalized patients in high-income countries, such as the U.S., acquire an infection during their stay. That’s compared to 10% of low- and middle-income countries. The study authors said hospitals could improve those numbers with better hygiene, improved infection control guidelines and appropriate use of antimicrobials.
In the report, the organizations suggested how each group of stakeholders can improve healthcare:
Nations should enhance the quality of healthcare policies and strategies.
Health systems should improve care and user experience.
Citizens should have the tools to engage in healthcare decisions.
Healthcare workers should partner with patients and use data to improve effectiveness and safety.
“While no single actor will be able to affect all these changes, an integrated approach whereby different actors work together to achieve their part will have a demonstrable effect on the quality of healthcare services around the world,” they suggested.
Hospitals, providers and others in the healthcare industry understand that medical errors are costly. However, making changes and improving quality, while also reducing healthcare costs, is not easy. EHRs and other digital health tools are promising, but also cause their own problems if they’re not appropriately designed or implemented effectively.
One example is barcode medication administration systems. A recent Leapfrog Group report found that fewer than 35% of hospitals that use an electronic medication administration record meet Leapfrog’s four standards for proper deployment. While that number is better than the 30.2% of hospitals meeting the standard two years ago, providers have a long way to go to improve the quality of care and reduce patient harm through errors and infections.
There is evidence, though, that rates of hospital-acquired conditions in the U.S. are improving. The number of such incidents dropped by 17% from 2010 to 2014 and another 8% between 2014 and 2016, preventing 8,000 deaths and saving nearly $3 billion in 2015 and 2016, according to a recent Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality report.