Hospital mistakes causing serious injury or death lowest since 2007

Avera Heart Hospital
The number of hospital mistakes last year that resulted in a serious injury or death was the lowest it has been since 2007.
MPR Photo/Cara Hetland

The number of hospital mistakes last year that resulted in a serious injury or death was the lowest it has been since 2007, the Minnesota Department of Health reported Thursday.

The overall number of reportable "adverse events" was up slightly in 2011 from the previous year, but the number of incidents that led to serious injury or death dropped from 107 in 2010 to 89 in 2011, officials said.

Adverse events include incidents such as surgery performed in the wrong place, foreign objects left in a patient's body during surgery, bedsores and falls.

An uptick in the number of bedsores and wrong procedures was the reason that overall incidents were up, health department officials said.

State law requires hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers to report serious mistakes and investigate why they happened. The report examines potential errors in six categories: surgical, environmental, patient protection, care management, product and device, and criminal events. It covers the period roughly from October 2010 to October 2011.

Five incidents resulting in death were reported in 2011, compared to 10 in 2010. Three deaths were associated with falls, one was due to a medication error, and one intravascular air embolism.

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Eighty-four incidents resulted in a serious disability; 68 of those were falls.

More than 60 hospitals or surgical centers reported adverse health events in 2011. Roughly 200 facilities are covered by the state's reporting requirement.

MDH said Minnesota hospitals reported about 2.6 million patient days in 2010 and more than 10 million outpatient registrations, and ambulatory surgical centers reported more than 216,000 registrations for same-day surgeries.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)