Patient safety measures could save 85,000 lives and $35 billion a year, according to a report issued by the consumer interest group Public Citizen. The report analyzed studies of treatment protocols for chronically recurring, avoidable medical errors.

The group proposed ten measures that it believes will make an impact on patient health and the prevention of errors. Public Citizen proposes that health care providers:

  • Use a checklist to reduce avoidable deaths and injuries resulting from surgical procedures (saves $20 billion a year);
  • Use best practices to prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia (saves 32,000 lives and $900 million a year);
  • Use best practices to prevent pressure ulcers (saves 14,071 lives and $5.5 billion a year);
  • Implement safeguards and quality control measures to reduce medication errors (saves 4,620 lives and $2.3 billion a year);
  • Use best practices to prevent patient falls in health care facilities (saves $1.5 billion a year);
  • Use a checklist to prevent catheter infections (saves 15,680 lives and $1.3 billion a year);
  • Modestly improve nurse staffing ratios (saves 5,000 lives and $242 million a year);
  • Permit standing orders to increase flu and pneumococcal vaccinations in the elderly (saves 9,250 lives and $545 million a year);
  • Use beta-blockers after heart attacks (saves 3,600 lives and $900,000 a year); and
  • Increase use of advanced care planning (saves $3.2 billion a year)

In addition the group is proposing ways to push the government to encourage adoption of the safety measures, such as by asking the Department of Health and Human Services to enact the reforms through regulation, and asking congress to require mandatory reporting of adverse events.

The full text of the report, titled “Back to Basics,” is available at http://www.citizen.org/documents/BackToBasics.pdf