Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Men's Health

Font Size

Little Improvement Seen in Medical Errors

5 Years After Stinging Report, Authors See Scant Progress
WebMD Health News

Nov. 4, 2004 -- Five years after a major report about an epidemic of medical errors in the U.S. health care system, little progress has been made to make medical care safer, experts say.

Observers site a lack of money and political will needed to fund safety research and implement safeguards in hospitals and doctors' offices throughout the nation. But they also point to a resistant medical culture in which doctors still balk at efforts to record medical errors and participate in systematic steps to prevent them.

The Institute of Medicine issued a report in November 1999 warning that lax and sometimes nonexistent safety practices were causing widespread medical errors in doctors' offices, pharmacies, intensive care units, and operating rooms throughout the country. The report -- believed to be among the most widely read in the institute's history -- claimed that between 44,000 and 98,000 Americans die each year because of preventable medical mistakes.

The numbers echoed as lawmakers vowed a national effort to reduce errors. Media reports of glaring medical mistakes -- such as removing the wrong kidney from a donor or amputating the wrong leg -- grabbed headlines.

But five years later, there is little evidence to show that the report's recommendations are being systematically implemented or that harm caused by dangerous errors has dropped.

"Let's not kid ourselves about what's happening. We don't have a national effort for patient safety," says Lucian L. Leape, MD, a professor of health policy at Harvard and a member of the 1999 IOM report committee.

Leape says scant progress has been made on several of the report's key recommendations, including finding a way to change hospital cultures that discourages medical error reporting and promoting team training where doctors, nurses, and others learn to work efficiently as a unit.

He also points to a lack of research money. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, charged with funding medical error studies, received $60 million this year compared with $27 billion that went to the National Institutes of Health.

Advocates complain that despite the initial outcry about medical error injuries and deaths, lawmakers and health care organizations have felt little pressure to change.

Today on WebMD

man coughing
Men shouldn’t ignore.
man swinging in hammock
And how to get out it.
shaving tools
On your shaving skills.
muscular man flexing
Four facts that matter.
Food Men 10 Foods Boost Male Health
Thoughtful man sitting on bed
Man taking blood pressure
doctor holding syringe
Condom Quiz
man running
older couple in bed