Safety in the health care field was brought into the spotlight after a 1999 report called "To Err is Human." Released by the U.S. Institute of Medicine, it estimated that 44,000 to 98,000 people died each year because of preventable medical errors. Since then, employee training, research and political debates have largely centered on bringing that number down. However, it is believed that 3 to 5 percent of hospital deaths in the United States could be prevented.
Innovations in how surgeries are performed may result in greater patient safety. Today, there are 65 million surgeries performed with 200,000 deaths from various complications. However, a combination of technical advances and standardized practices may work to reduce that number. For instance, patient simulators allow surgeons to hone their skills without risking a patient's life. In addition, minimally invasive surgery allows for complex procedures to be conducted without making large incisions into the patient.
Hospitals have also started to identify processes that need to be repeated the same way each time a surgery is conducted. Checklists have been created to make procedures as routine as possible. In addition to creating these standards, surgeons and other staff members are either rewarded or face negative consequences based on their level of compliance.
If a patient is hurt because of medical negligence, it may be possible to pursue a malpractice case. In addition to the doctor or surgeon who made the error, the hospital where the doctor or surgeon works may be held responsible. An attorney may review such a case in an effort to establish that negligence occurred.