Patient safety has improved in the U.S. healthcare system five years after a landmark Institute of Medicine report, but the healthcare system continues to be deficient in certain key areas, including error-reporting systems and accountability, according to an assessment published online by Health Affairs. Overall, the U.S. healthcare system was given a C+ for patient safety in the assessment by Robert Wachter, chief of medical service at UCSF Medical Center. The healthcare system performed worst in the area of the malpractice system and accountability, receiving a D+. It performed better in four other major areas of activity and initiatives related to patient safety, receiving an A- for regulation, B for workforce and training issues, B- for information technology and C for error-reporting systems.
The 1999 IOM report, To Err is Human, called for halving the number of medical errors by 2004, but inadequate funding, training, and organizational structure and culture have made the goal difficult to achieve, Wachter said. Read Wachter's report. A recent Modern Healthcare cover story also addressed the healthcare system's progress on improving patient safety. Read the story. -- by Tony Fong