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I have written about the abundance of medical errors on a few occasions, but I believe this is the first time that I have seen an actual dollar figure attached to the subject. The estimated annual cost comes in just shy of $20 ($19.5) billion for 2008. That’s right BILLION.

The study was commissioned by the Society of Actuaries and carried out by the consulting firm Milliman. The firm used insurance claims data to calculate estimates. The cost estimates include medical costs, cost associated with increased mortality rate, loss of productivity, and is based on a what the author of the study calls a conservative estimate of 1.5 million measurable errors.

Conservative estimates might actually be an understatement. The study accounts for 2,500 avoidable deaths and 10 million lost days of work, but other studies have suggested that as many as 195,000 Americans die each year from preventable medical errors.

Bed sores topped the list as the costliest errors of all errors at 3.9 billion per year, with post opertation infection right behind at 3.7 billion. Complications with medical devices accounted for another large chunk at 1.1 billion per year.

These numbers are absolutely astounding. Something must be done to address this issue and fast. We have plenty of data that demonstrates the severity of this issue but nothing seems to be getting done to address it.

In recent years we have made tremendous strides in creating a healthier and safer society by enacting policy that is based on safety data that has been collected. Why are we not doing the same here? When are we going make a serious effort to reduce medical errors?

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