Last year, about 43 million people around the globe were injured from the hospital care that was intended to help them; as a result, many died and millions suffered long-term disability. These seem like dramatic numbers – could they possibly be true?
If anything, they are almost surely an underestimate. These findings come from a paper we published last year funded and done in collaboration with the World Health Organization. We focused on a select group of “adverse events” and used conservative assumptions to model not only how often they occur, but also with what consequence to patients around the world.
Our WHO-funded study doesn’t stand alone; others have estimated that harm from unsafe medical care is far greater than previously thought. A paper published last year in the Journal of Patient Safety estimated that medical errors might be the third leading cause of deaths among Americans, after heart disease and cancer.
While I find that number hard to believe, what is undoubtedly true is this: adverse events – injuries that happen due to medical care – are a major cause of morbidity and mortality, and these problems are global. In every country where people have looked (U.S., Canada, Australia, England, nations of the Middle East, Latin America, etc.), the story is the same.
Patient safety is a big problem – a major source of suffering, disability, and death for the world’s population.The problem of inadequate health care, the global nature of this challenging problem, and the common set of causes that underlie it, motivated us to put together PH555X.
It’s a HarvardX online MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) with a simple focus: health care quality and safety with a global perspective.