Newly published in the prestigious British Medical Journal, a systematic review and meta-analysis has addressed the serious problem of preventable patient harm in medical care: 70 studies involving 337 025 patients were included in the meta-analysis, yielding a pooled prevalence for preventable patient harm of 6% (95% CI 5% to 7%). The pooled proportion of 12% of issues identified (95% CI 9 – 15%) of preventable patient harm was severe or led to death. The largest proportion of Incidents identified were tied to issues arising from drugs (25%, 95% CI 16- 34%). Intensive care or surgery settings were more likely to be implicated than the general hospital context.
In the report (which can be viewed in full here), the authors advocate for a more thorough understanding of the nature of preventable patient harm and its determinants and suggest that educational interventions, system-level measures, and quality monitoring and improvement processes, but stress that whatever solutions are implemented need to be scalable. Gaps in research in vulnerable sub-groups such as children, older people, people with mental illness and those in developing countries are also identified. There appears to be a great deal of work left to do.