Dying from Infection After Hospital Visit More Likely Than Dying in a Car Crash

The odds of dying in a plane crash are about 1 in 10 million. Sounds like a relatively small risk, especially compared to the odds of dying in a motor vehicle crash — which are about 1 in 5,000. But even riskier than dying in a transportation accident is dying due to a medical error.

According to a recent study by the World Health Organization (WHO), dying from a medical mistake or infection following a hospital visit in the United States is far riskier than flying. WHO patient safety representative Liam Donaldson 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.”

“Health care is a high-risk business,” continued Donaldson, “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.”

And in that fast-moving, high-pressured environment, it is inevitable that short cuts happen — like forgetting to wash one’s hands between patient visits. According to WHO, over half of all infections could be prevented simply if hospital employees wash their hands or use hand sanitizer. The average patient comes into contact with a number of health care workers during a visit to the hospital (for example, heart surgery can mean that the patient comes in contact with a team of over 60 employee), which further increases the risk that one worker, who failed to wash their hands, may cause an infection.

Because infections linked to health care are more widespread than one would think, WHO is encouraging patients to ask questions and challenge whether proper hygiene standards are being used in hospitals.

Source: Going into hospital is far riskier than flying: WHO.