In 1999, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a landmark report, To Err is Human, estimating that at least 44,000, and as many as 98,000, patients die in hospitals each year as a result of preventable medical errors. The IOM is an independent nonprofit organization that provides unbiased information to the government and the public.
The IOM defined an error as “the failure of a planned action to be completed as intended (i.e., an error of execution) or the use of a wrong plan to achieve an aim (i.e., an error of planning).” These errors occurred at every phase of the medical system, including preventive care, diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up. The Report concluded the most likely place for these errors to occur were in the intensive care units, operating rooms, and emergency departments.
If the rate of preventable medical errors has continued at this pace since the 1999 IOM study, there have been another 500,000 to 1.1 million preventable deaths. It is noteworthy to mention that the IOM Report is limited to preventable medical errors in hospitals and does not include errors outside hospitals, such as in doctor’s offices, clinics, outpatient surgery centers, and nursing homes.