A new study found medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. just behind heart disease and cancer.
Doctors at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine released the study this week in the British Medical Journal. It calculated that more than 250,000 hospital patients die every year from medical care errors. Since the Centers for Disease Control does not classify medical errors separately on death certificates, one of the researches said the numbers in the analysis are conservative.
The research shows 9.5 percent of all deaths in the U.S. stem from preventable complications inside hospitals.
"I think one of the big things they're emphasizing is not to put it on a bad doctor plate and say bad doctors are causing all these medical errors,” said 9NEWS medical expert Dr. John Torres.
The Johns Hopkins study shows most errors are a part of systemic problems like poor communication, underused safety nets, issues with insurance and a lack of accountability.
"There's no such thing as a perfect surgery, that nothing's going to go wrong. There's no such thing as any procedure that doesn't have side effects with it. And that's why I always encourage patients, before you go in, know what's supposed to happen, what could happen, and understand what you need to do to follow up with that because we're a team, the doctor and the patients are a team, need to work together,” Torres said.
The team behind the study is calling on the CDC to require more information on death certificates. Currently, there is no recognized standard for collecting the numbers behind medical errors.
"As a medical community there's an increasing recognition that we should pay attention to this problem, measure it and try to develop innovations and prevention strategies,” said Dr. Martin Makary of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Instead of just identifying the cause, Makary said there should be an extra question on the death certificate that would ask whether a preventable complication during medical care contributed to death.
"Not all medical errors are alike. Once we get a better understanding of that, we can get a better understanding of what we need to do to correct it,” Torres said.
Measuring the problem could help drop the number of deadly consequences.