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Full report
Executive summary
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Despite considerable progress in health care safety over the past two decades, preventable deaths and injuries associated with medical error persist. The challenges are great, but so are the opportunities. The Financial and Human Cost of Medical Error ... And How Massachusetts Can Lead the Way on Patient Safety details two sets of research findings and proposes a coordinated response through which the Commonwealth can accelerate safety and quality improvement.

Key takeaways

  • Medical harm is frequent, harmful, and costly. Our research identified almost 62,000 preventable harm events and more than $617 million in excess health care insurance claims — just exceeding one percent of the state’s Total Health Care Expenditures for 2017. 
  • More than one in five residents experienced a medical error in the previous five years. In addition to long-lasting physical, emotional, and financial harms, respondents report a loss of trust in providers and the health care system, and many avoid health care altogether.
  • More than 60% of respondents were dissatisfied with the communication from their provider after the error. But when providers communicate openly about the error, patients report lower levels of emotional harm

Next steps

In response to this report, the Massachusetts Health Care Safety and Quality Consortium developed the Roadmap to Health Care Safety for Massachusetts, a long-term strategic plan to break new ground on safety across the state.


Research archive