Medical errors at MN hospitals reached new highs in 2023, MDH says

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is reporting a rise in "adverse health events," or preventable medical errors, across the state in 2023, making this the fourth year of increases.

The total number of reported adverse health events in 2023 was 610, and 222 of those resulted in serious injury, which the MDH says are new highs. MDH data from 2023 also showed a rise in cases that required "severe surgery", which health officials say is "associated with serious injury or death."

"Though adverse health events in these settings continue to be rare relative to overall patient volume, we are troubled by the current trend lines of both the number of adverse events and their severity. We remain committed to conducting these types of analyses and advocating for changes in how care is delivered to improve outcomes and ensure patient safety for all Minnesotans." Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Brooke Cunningham said in a statement.

The length of patient total days spent in the hospital was reported to be 5.9 million in 2023, which is an increase from 5.5 million days in 2022. MDH officials say this could be due to factors such as "increased patient complexity due to delayed care and Minnesota's aging population" and discharge delays because of a lack of bed availability at the next level of care. 

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The Minnesota Hospital Association also released a statement in response to the data released by the Minnesota Department of Health. That statement read, in part:

"Minnesota hospitals and health systems remain committed to the wellbeing and safety of their patients. The increase in adverse health events reported today by the Minnesota Department of Health is concerning, and the subject of intense focus by the state’s care providers.

"But while the numbers have increased slightly again this year, the events themselves remain very rare in hospital settings, corresponding to just 1/1000 of 1% of patient days in the state’s hospitals. And the increase in incidents represents a growing concern by providers: the lack of alternatives for patients that no longer require hospital level care."

The statement concluded that, "State and federal government, and even private insurers, pay billions of dollars less than the actual cost of patient care in Minnesota every year, and these latest numbers show these shortfalls are having a real and serious impact on the care Minnesotans get."

MDH said it is working to "address both hospital-specific and systemic issues that impact safety" while also using new ways to collect and analyze data. 

The National Institute of Health defines "adverse health events" as "harmful or negative outcomes that happens when a patient has been provided with medical care."