Avoidable medical errors cost billions

Avoidable medical errors added $19.5 billion to the nation's healthcare bill in 2008, according to a report by the Society of Actuaries.

The report found that the ten most expensive errors were:

1. Pressure ulcers ($3.858 billion)
2. Postoperative infections ($3.676 billion)
3. Mechanical complication of a device, implant or graft ($1.133 billion)
4. Postlaminectomy syndrome ($1.123 billion)
5. Hemorrhage complicating a procedure ($960 million)
6. Infection following infusion, injection, transfusion, vaccination ($691 million)
7. Pneumothorax ($617 million)
8. Infection due to central venous catheter ($589 million)
9. Other complications of internal (biological) (synthetic) prosthetic device, implant and graft ($462 million)
10. Ventral hernia without mention of obstruction or gangrene($440 million)

The authors suggest that insurers should assume an active role to increase quality improvement initiatives to reduce errors and costs.

(Sources: Society of Actuaries’ Health Section Report, http://www.soa.org/, June, 2010; HealthLeaders Media, http://healthleadersmedia.com, August 11, 2010)