Understanding the First Institute of Medicine Report and Its Impact on Patient Safety

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Book Chapter

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Inclusive Pages

Chapter 1


Quality Improvement


In October 1999, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health Care System, a report that put the issues of patient safety and medical errors in front of the American public and on the agendas of health care institutions, provider associations, consumer groups, the administration, and the Congress seemingly overnight. The national news networks and other media outlets broadcast the startling finding that up to 98,000 people die in hospitals each year as a result of medical errors and countless more are seriously harmed. And, whereas other industries have worked systematically to improve error rates and adverse outcomes over the past several decades the health care industry appears to have made woefully few improvements in patient safety and has essentially maintained high medical error rates over the past 15 years.

This chapter describes the findings of the IOM report and summarizes some of the published literature upon which the findings were based. It also describes public- and private- sector responses to the IOM report and the ways in which various groups have positioned themselves on the issue.

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