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To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System

To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System
Author: Committee on Quality of Health Care in America - I
ISBN 13: 9780309068376
ISBN 10: 309068371
Edition: 1
Publisher: National Academies Press
Publication Date: 2000-04-15
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 287
List Price: $39.95

Experts estimate that as many as 98,000 people die in any given year from medical errors that occur in hospitals. That's more than die from motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer, or AIDS -- three causes that receive far more public attention. Indeed, more people die annually from medication errors alone than from workplace injuries. And, although errors may be more easily detected in hospitals, the problems extend to every health care setting, including day-surgery and outpatient clinics, retail pharmacies, nursing homes and home care. And the financial cost to the human tragedy, and medical error easily rises to the top ranks of urgent, widespread health problems.

Faced with these stunning statistics, the Institute of Medicine has initiated a project to examine the issues and recommend rigorous changes in American health care. First in the series of publications from the Quality of Health Care in America project, To Err Is Human breaks the silence that has surrounded medical errors and their consequences -- but not by pointing fingers at caring health care professionals who make honest mistakes. After all, to err is human. Instead, this book sets forth a national agenda -- with state and local implications -- for reducing medical errors and improving patient safety through the design of a safer health system.

This volume reveals the often startling truth of medical error and the disparity between the incidence of error and public perception of it. A careful examination is made of how the surrounding forces of legislation, regulation, and market activity influence the quality of care provided and then looks at the handling of medical mistakes.

Using a detailed case study, the book reviews the current understanding of why these mistakes happen. Recognizing that legitimate liability concerns may discourage reporting of errors, the book asks, "How can we learn from our mistakes?"

Balancing regulatory versus market-based initiatives and public versus private efforts, the Institute of Medicine presents wide-ranging recommendations for improving patient safety in the areas of leadership, improved data collection and analysis, and development of effective systems at the level of direct patient care.

To Err Is Human asserts that the problem is not bad people in health care -- it is that good people are working in systems that need to be made safer. Comprehensive and straightforward, this book offers a clear prescription for raising the level of patient safety in American health care. It also explains how patients themselves can influence the quality of care they receive.

This book will be vitally important to federal, state, and local health policymakers and regulators, health professional licensing officials, hospital administrators, medical educators and students, health care-givers, health journalists, patient advocates -- as well as patients themselves.


Inaugurating the Quality of Health Care in America series, the Institute of Medicine reports on medical errors and their consequences. Rather than pointing fingers at individual health care professionals, they set out a national agenda, with state and local implications, for reducing medical errors and improving patient safety by designing a safer health system. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)