Medical errors and unintended harm continue to occur, despite preventive strategies. Understanding terminology and key attributes of improving safety can lead to creation of systems to reduce medical errors and preventable harm.

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The patient safety movement was galvanized by publication of To Err is Human by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 1999. (1) The report estimated that 44,000 to 98,000 people die in US hospitals each year as a result of medical errors. Equally interesting and perhaps as important to the magnitude of preventable injury occurring to patients in the United States is the fact that much of the data used as the basis for these estimates had been published and available in 1991. (2) The economic impact of medical errors has equally alarming implications for both health systems and consumers. Researchers analyzed clinical and...

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