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Patient safety events make hospital stays longer and more costly

Research Activities, June 2009, No. 346

Hospital stays that result in a patient safety event report are 17 percent more costly and 22 percent longer compared with stays with no events. The most expensive and most common events are medication and treatment errors, accounting for 77 percent of all event types and 77 percent of added costs. The findings come from a study by researchers at the Center for Outcomes Research and Education, Providence Health and Services, Portland, Oregon. They analyzed events captured in a voluntary electronic reporting system at three hospitals in Portland.

Previous research on patient safety-related cost and length of stay has focused on events or injuries defined by some level of patient harm. In contrast, 90 percent of events in this study did not result in patient harm. As a result, the excess cost and length of stay observed was probably due to near misses, latent errors, and other unsound practices, explain the researchers.

Events considered the most expensive were medication errors and patient falls (21 percent higher cost), behavioral problems (15 percent), loss/exposure (13 percent), treatment (12 percent), and equipment (11 percent). Patient falls incurred the greatest increase in length of stay (34 percent longer), followed by medication events (26 percent), loss/exposure (25 percent), behavioral problems (21 percent), treatment (13 percent), and equipment (10 percent).

Over 2 years, these patient safety events resulted in an estimated $8.3 million in additional costs and an additional 4,854 days in the hospital. Medication events were the most costly, accounting for an estimated $4 million and nearly half (2,300) of the extra patient days. Treatment events and falls resulted in $2.3 million and $900,000 of extra costs, respectively. During the 2-year period, falls resulted in more than 1,100 additional bed days. The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (Contract No. 290-00-0018).

See "Excess cost and length of stay associated with voluntary patient safety event reports in hospitals," by Andrew R. Paradis, M.B.A., Valerie T. Stewart, Ph.D., K. Bruce Bayley, Ph.D., and others, in the January/February American Journal of Medical Quality 24(1), pp. 53-60.

Current as of June 2009
Internet Citation: Patient safety events make hospital stays longer and more costly: Research Activities, June 2009, No. 346. June 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/research-activities/jun09/0609RA33.html