More than 1000 people die in the US each day from hospital errors that are preventable. In India, with three times the population of the US, less stringent medical care, and hospitals that can be underfunded leading to irregularities in care, even conservatively, we can safely assume that hundreds of Indians unnecessarily die due to preventable healthcare-related errors every day.
Research has consistently shown that unsafe healthcare is more an administrative and systems-related issue. Poorly designed and poorly maintained healthcare systems create accidents waiting to happen: for instance, lack of a culture of safety, presence of counterfeit or substandard medicines, absent or faulty equipment, poor infection-control policies, doctors and nurses with insufficient or dated knowledge, and weak avenues for communication between patients and health personnel.
For patient safety to be taken seriously in India ? by citizens, politicians, and the media ? we need our own numbers. Right now what we have are very inaccurate and underestimated calculations. An international study in 2013 concluded that around 5.2 million injuries occurred every year in India due to unsafe medical care, but the authors also said that the estimates were made from very sparse data and that they had actually not included several types of medical errors. A review of scientific publications about patient safety from the 1960s till 2014 revealed that the number of articles on patient safety produced from India was a measly 13.
Thus, the absolute necessity of robust, indigenous studies about the magnitude of and important causes of healthcare related adverse events in India cannot be overstated. Such research will greatly help us better channel our efforts at patient safety, which are at present influenced mainly by foreign research. Besides, the research and its findings could help end our current indifference as a society, towards patient safety. We already have the personnel, and the technical know how to conduct these studies; what we need now is the political will to conduct and fund them.
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