Consumers Union: Not much progress on preventable errors

A report released yesterday by not-for-profit publisher Consumers Union states that despite an “initial flurry of activity” following the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) 1999 “To Err is Human” report, the nation has since made limited progress against several of the IOM’s recommended patient safety reforms.


In a new report issued today, “To Err is Human – To Delay is Deadly,” Consumers Union detailed their view that there has been a lack of progress since the IOM estimated in 1999 that as many as 98,000 Americans die every year from preventable medical errors. Consumers Union’s report was released as lawmakers in Congress are working on legislation to address the rising cost of health care and expand access to coverage. Consumers Union maintains that reducing medical harm -- including hospital-acquired infections and medication errors -- would not only improve patient care but also provide significant costs savings to help make expanded access to health coverage possible.


According to Consumers Union, “There is little evidence to suggest that the number of people dying from medical harm has dropped since the IOM first warned about these deadly mistakes a decade ago,” said Lisa McGiffert, Director of Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project ( “That means a million lives and billions of dollars have been lost over the past ten years because our health care system failed to adopt key reforms recommended by the IOM to protect patients. As the debate over health care heats up in Washington, Congress should make sure that improving patient safety is a central part of any reform legislation it adopts.”


Consumers Union’s report reviewed four key IOM recommendations to make health care safer:

Implement safe medication practices

Create Accountability Through Transparency

Measure the Problem

Raise Standards for Competency in Patient Safety


Click here for the Press Release.


(SOURCES: The Advisory Board Daily Briefing,, May 20, 2009; Consumers Union,, accessed June 1, 2009)