hospitalization_inside.jpgA recent study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) says that going to hospital is far more dangerous than flying on a plane.

In the study published on, Dr. Liam Donaldson, WHO envoy for patient safety, said, "If you were admitted to hospital tomorrow in any country, your chances of being subjected to an error in your care would be something like 1 in 10. Your chances of dying due to an error in health care would be 1 in 300." In contrast, the risk of dying in a plane crash is approximately 1 in 10 million, while the risk of death due to a motor vehicle accident is 1 in 5,000.

Dr. Donaldson says that to avoid these fatal hospital errors, patients need to be involved in the health care process. "They need to ask questions, hospitals must maintain at least basic hygiene standards as well as conforming to WHO's [surgery] checklist to make sure that surgical interventions are done safely."

Dr. Donaldson adds, "Health care is a high-risk business, inevitably, because people are sick and modern health care is delivered in a fast-moving, high-pressured environment involving a lot of complex technology and a lot of people...Medication errors are common."

However, if health care staff took simple precautions like washing their hands before touching patients, the risk of infections would be halved. Furthermore, if hospitals followed the WHO's surgery checklist, the agency estimates that there would 500,000 less hospital-related deaths each year.

The WHO's claims are backed by a 2009 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The research, which was conducted between October 2007 and September 2008, took place in eight hospitals in eight cities (Toronto, New Delhi, Amman, Auckland, Manila, Ifakara, London, and Seattle). The data collected from the study showed that the implementation of the WHO surgical checklist lowered the death rate from 1.5 percent to 0.8 percent. Furthermore, "inpatient complications occurred in in 11 percent of patients at baseline and in 7 percent after the introduction of the checklist."

To learn more about the things you need to ask and consider when seeing health care professionals, check out these FN articles:

(Photo by kokopinto via Flickr Creative Commons)
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