Patient safety

Evidence of unsafe care

Unsafe medical care is a major source of morbidity and mortality throughout the world

In order to understand the scope of the issues facing policy-makers and researchers involved in improving the safety of health care, the World Health Organization (WHO) Patient Safety summarized existing research on patient safety.

The report contains several key finding:
  • The available data suggest that harm from medical care poses a substantial burden in terms of morbidity and mortality on people around the world.
  • Much of the evidence base has been created in the developed countries; although there is some epidemiological evidence of poor clinical outcomes due to unsafe medical care in developing countries and countries with economies in transition, the information on structural and process factors that contribute to unsafe medical care is derived almost entirely from a small number of developed countries. Their applicability to patient safety in other countries is not well known.
  • Although some of the means for reducing harm are known, large gaps in knowledge need to be filled before comprehensive solutions can be found.

The report highlights that better understanding is required of the causes, frequency and harm of adverse events in developing countries and those with economies in transition. Special focus should be placed on understanding the underlying processes of care that lead to adverse events. As the epidemiology and causes of adverse events become better known, it will become possible to find the solutions that are most likely to reduce harm.