Millions of patients are harmed each year due to unsafe health care worldwide, resulting in 2.6 million deaths annually in low-and middle-income countries alone. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), most of these deaths are avoidable. The personal, social and economic impact of patient harm leads to losses of trillions of U.S. dollars worldwide.
“No one should be harmed while receiving health care. And yet globally, at least 5 patients die every minute because of unsafe care,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “We need a patient safety culture that promotes partnership with patients, encourages reporting and learning from errors, and creates a blame-free environment where health workers are empowered and trained to reduce errors."
According to the WHO:
Four out of every ten patients are harmed during primary and ambulatory health care. The most detrimental errors are related to diagnosis, prescription and the use of medicines. Medication errors alone cost an estimated US$ 42 billion annually. Unsafe surgical care procedures cause complications in up to 25% of patients resulting in 1 million deaths during or immediately after surgery annually.
The WHO is calling for urgent action by countries and partners around the world to reduce patient harm in health care. Patient safety and quality of care are essential for delivering effective health services and achieving universal health coverage.
Investment in improving patient safety can lead to significant financial savings. The cost of prevention is much lower than the cost of treatment due to harm. As an example, in the United States alone, focused safety improvements led to an estimated $28 billion in savings in Medicare hospitals between 2010 and 2015.
Greater patient involvement is the key to safer care. Engaging patients can reduce the burden of harm by up to 15%, saving billions of dollars each year.