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What Are Preventable Medical Errors and Why Do They Matter?

Each year in the United States, roughly 200,000 people die and another 2 million fall victim to preventable medical errors during their stay in the hospital. These numbers make preventable medical errors the third leading cause of death in the United States, and they cost the healthcare system billions of dollars each year.

The reduction of medical errors in our hospital systems is too large for any one group to realistically conquer. This problem must be addressed by the entire community. Together, we can keep our families safe from harm.

What are the types of medical errors?

The Joint Commission’s mission is to continually improve public healthcare. Part of its role is accrediting U.S. hospitals.  It recently published a report that listed the top 10 sentinel events of 2021 – most of which occurred in hospitals.


Among the most common medical errors listed by the joint commission are the following:

Wrong site surgeries


Incorrect medication dosing

Communication errors


acquired infections

How much do medical errors cost the US each year?

$17.1 billion, largely attributable to post-surgical complications, health care–associated infections, and pressure ulcers. Never events accounted for approximately $3.7 billion in excess costs. The results of this study provide targets for policy efforts to control health care costs and improve patient safety.

Graphic of financial papers and calculator
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