Study: Device errors cost $1.1B annually

A new study commissioned by the Society of Actuaries and completed by consultants with Milliman estimates that measurable medical errors cost the U.S. economy $19.5 billion in 2008. And medical device errors accounted for $1.1 billion of that cost. 

In their report The Economic Measurement of Medical Errors, the authors calculate that there were 268,353 injuries as a result of a mechanical complication of device, implant or graft--60,380 of which were result of an error. The total cost per error was $18,771.

"We used a conservative methodology and still found 1.5 million measurable medical errors occurred in 2008," says Jonathan Shreve, FSA, MAAA, consulting actuary for Milliman and co-author of the report. "This number includes only the errors that we could identify through claims data, so the total economic impact of medical errors is in fact greater than what we have reported."

"This is so important, and yet it's so overlooked," says Jim Toole, the chairman of the SOA's project oversight group, as quoted by the Wall Street Journal blog. "We have wonderful information in this country about automobile safety and how in the last 20 years we've reduced highway deaths by 35% ... but we have no starting point for medical errors or injuries." To rectify this problem, Toole said he'd like to see better federal patient-safety efforts, including a mandatory national reporting system.

- see the SOA release
- read the full report 
- get more from the WSJ