Report gives U.S. patient safety C+ grade

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The malpractice system and accountability receives the lowest grade (D+) in a journal assessment reviewing patient safety in the United States. Overall safety stands at C+, according to the Health Affairs article, which was released Tuesday.

Progress has been made since a 1999 landmark report from the Institutes of Medicine claimed that up to 98,000 lives per year were lost needlessly due to medical errors. But much still remains to be done, noted report author Robert Wachter, M.D., associate chairman at the University of California at San Francisco's Department of Medicine.

Wachter said that providers are much more cognizant of patient-safety issues today than they were five years ago. He said another bright spot is that better use of information technology appears to be gaining momentum.

But not enough attention has been given to medical malpractice and error reporting systems, he says. A "broken" liability system is serving neither physicians nor patients well, Wachter feels. He calls for more team training of nurses.

The report can be seen at http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/abstract/hlthaff.w4.534.