In a report released early last month, the Society of Actuaries (SOA) attempted the complicated task of estimating the number and cost of medical errors. Being actuaries (professionals who perform mathematical analysis of data to determine risks that help insurance companies determine rates and write policies), they focused only on relatively concrete data–actual claims made by doctors for billing purposes–and extrapolated from that data to determine the cost of medical errors.

In looking at the data, the SOA found that there were at least 6.3 million medical injuries in the United States in 2008. Approximately seven percent of hospital admissions resulted in some type of medical injury. Overall, nearly a quarter of all medical injuries (1.5 million) were caused by a medical error. The overall total economic cost of medical injuries was estimated to be $19.5 billion. 87% of the cost they could verify was from increased treatment cost, with the other 13% coming from lost work, disability, and patient death. Errors were estimated to result in at least 2500 wrongful deaths in 2008.

The study also identifies the most common errors associated with medical injury, and state that 55% of the total cost of errors was due to only five common errors:

  • Pressure ulcers (bedsores)
  • Postoperative infections
  • Mechanical complications of devices, implants, or grafts
  • Post-laminectomy syndrome (ongoing pain following back surgeries to relieve nerve compression)
  • Hemorrhages complicating a procedure

The actuaries recognize several limits to their study:

  • Because it only utilizes coded medical claims, the study underreports many types of injury, most notably death that occurs outside the care setting
  • Uncoded errors are not included
  • Disability that lasts more than one year after injury was not included
  • Pain and suffering could not be measured
  • Legal costs were not included

So the actual costs of verifiable medical errors is likely much higher than the current estimates.

If you have been hurt as a result of a doctor’s error, you may be eligible for compensation for your injuries. The medical malpractice lawyers of Robert W. Kerpsack, CO. LPA may be able to help you. Please contact us today for a free initial consultation.