Nearly one in five Medicare patients are victims of medical injuries that often aren’t related to their underlying disease or condition, according to new research.
The injuries included: being given the wrong medication, having an allergic reaction to a medication, or receiving any treatment that led to more complications of an existing medical problem.
“These injuries are caused by the medical care or management rather than any underlying disease,” said lead researcher Mary Carter, director of the Gerontology Program at Towson University in Maryland.
About two-thirds of these injuries occurred during outpatient care, rather than in the hospital, the study findings showed.
While there has been a great deal of effort in trying to understand medical injury in hospitals, not as much has been done in clinics, doctor’s offices, outpatient surgery centers, emergency rooms and nursing homes, noted Carter.
“To really improve our ability to prevent these types of adverse events, we have to focus at least as much on outpatient care as we do on inpatient care,” Carter said.
Findings from the study were published online May 27 in the journal Injury Prevention. It’s important to note that while the people in the study all had Medicare insurance, the study didn’t show that having Medicare insurance caused any of these injuries.
Older people, men and those from lower-income backgrounds were most at risk of an adverse medical event, the study authors found. They also found that people who had chronic medical conditions or who were disabled in some way were more at risk of a medical injury.
While medical experts acknowledged the problem, they also stressed the need to encourage healthy living habits.