Adverse events occur in 24% of admissions, study suggests

Despite decades of safety work, adverse events are still common in Massachusetts hospitals and may occur in about one-fourth of admissions, according to a study published Jan. 12 in The New England Journal of Medicine.

To assess trends in adverse events, a team led by researchers at Boston-based Brigham and Women's Hospital analyzed a random sample of 2,809 acute care admissions from 11 Massachusetts hospitals in 2018. 

Four study findings:

1. Researchers identified at least one adverse event in 23.6 percent of admissions.

2. Of 978 adverse events identified, 22.7 percent were deemed preventable and 32.3 percent caused harm that resulted in substantial intervention or prolonged recovery.

3. Overall, preventable adverse events occurred in 6.8 percent of admissions. One death was also considered preventable. 

4. The most common type of adverse events were:

  • Adverse drug events — 39 percent
  • Surgical or other procedural events — 30.4 percent
  • Nursing care events, including falls and pressure ulcers — 15 percent 
  • Healthcare-associated infections — 11.9 percent 

The study included hospitals of different sizes but may not be representative of hospitals at large. In some cases, larger hospitals may have adverse event rates of 40 percent or higher,  researchers said. 

"This finding suggests that if hospitals had data that were more reliable and more routinely collected, it is possible that monitoring could be improved, adverse event rates could be reduced, and improvement strategies could be shared through careful study of interventions," researchers said. 

See the full study here.

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