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July 5, 2000

Institute of Medicine Medical Error Figures Are Not Exaggerated

Author Affiliations

Controversies Section Editor: Phil B. Fontanarosa, MD, Deputy Editor.

JAMA. 2000;284(1):95-97. doi:10.1001/jama.284.1.95

Few publications in recent memory have received as much notice or stimulated as swift a response among policy makers as the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on medical errors.1 Within 2 weeks of the report's release last November, Congress began hearings and the president ordered a government-wide study of the feasibility of implementing the report's recommendations. The IOM called for a broad national effort to include establishment of a Center for Patient Safety within the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, expanded reporting of adverse events and errors, development of safety programs in health care organizations, and intensified efforts by regulators, health care purchasers, and professional societies. However, while the objective of the IOM report, and the thrust of its recommendations, was to stimulate a national effort to improve patient safety, what initially grabbed public attention was the declaration that between 44,000 and 98,000 people die in US hospitals annually as a result of medical errors. These estimates represent current national extrapolations from the results of 2 large population-based studies carried out to assess the impact of medical injury.2,3

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