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Health Agencies Update
January 19, 2000

Targeting Medical Errors

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JAMA. 2000;283(3):325. doi:10.1001/jama.283.3.325-JHA90011-3-1

Medical errors such as illegible prescriptions or health care workers delivering the wrong dosages of medication kill an estimated 44,000 to 98,000 Americans a year—a number that exceeds deaths from highway accidents, AIDS, or breast cancer—according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

The IOM committee that prepared the report said that strategies exist for preventing many such mistakes and called for a 50% reduction in medical errors over the next 5 years. The group recommended that Congress establish a federal Center for Patient Safety to establish national safety goals, to track progress in meeting these goals, and to fund research related to learning how to prevent medical errors. The committee also backed a nationwide, mandatory error reporting system to help state health officials detect problems and take action to prevent future occurrences.