The Facts

Equip, Unite, Mobilize

You’ll find information below to equip yourself so that you are ready to #uniteforsafecare.

In the United States, it is alarming that medical errors are the third leading cause of death, behind heart disease and cancer. Globally, preventable complications following medical care contribute to more deaths than people dying from HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis (TB) combined, and this estimate is likely to increase during these unprecedented times. Much of this harm is preventable and all these people die needlessly.

This issue affects us all, no matter our age or race or the size of our bank accounts. We do know that people of color experience harm more frequently when they seek health care and we must unite to address this epidemic. Together we can find solutions and bridge this major gap in our system.

Facts about patient safety and medical errors - 13,150+ People die in hospitals, every day, in ways that could have been prevented. 3rd* Leading cause of death in the US. *MEDICAL ERRORS250,000-440,000 People are estimated to die in the US each year from medical errors.4.8 Million People are estimated to die globally each year from medical errors. This is more than HIV, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, combined.

Fast facts:

  • Globally our hospitals are being overwhelmed by the global pandemic sweeping our world.
  • Patient and health worker safety are in grave danger.
  • Before this pandemic began it was estimated that globally more than 13,150 people every day were dying in hospitals in ways that could have been prevented. 
  • Our caregivers, nurses, doctors, and respiratory therapists, are now also taking the brunt and are dying due to the lack of system preparedness.
  • If we had made the safety of our health system for both caregivers and patients our number one priority many lives would have been saved. We must learn from this, we must act to make safety our top priority and we must ensure this never happens again.
  • There’s no single villain to blame, it’s the systems that have been set up ineffectively and the lack of transparency in delivering care.  
  • When we don’t talk about medical errors openly and honestly, the same mistakes happen again and again. Silence impedes learning and perpetuates preventable harm, too often resulting in unnecessary harm and deaths.

This is unacceptable. This could affect you or a loved one tomorrow.

Public Poll Results

A recent survey conducted by the Patient Safety Movement Foundation in April of 2020 revealed that:

  • Surprisingly, 70% of Americans hadn’t heard anything about medical error in their communities. The majority (79%) felt that going to a hospital was safe.
  • Only 34% of Americans had heard of medical error and could actually identify the common definition of the term.
  • 64% of Americans can’t relate to the term. They say they and their loved ones haven’t been affected, yet we know that harm occurs in one out of ten hospital visits.
  • 65% of respondents felt that most medical errors could be prevented.

Click here for more information on the poll results.

What is patient safety?

The World Health Organization defines Patient Safety as:

“the absence of preventable harm to a patient during the process of health care and the reduction of risk of unnecessary harm associated with health care to an acceptable minimum. An acceptable minimum refers to the collective notions of given current knowledge, resources available and the context in which care was delivered weighed against the risk of non-treatment or other treatment.”

Although there’s an inherent risk in giving care, we know that the following are needed to drive safe care, every time, for every patient:

  • Organizational leadership capacity
  • Clear policies and procedures
  • Data collection to drive real-time improvements
  • Proper staffing with skilled health workers
  • Patients and family members engaged by health workers as valuable members of the healthcare team

What if I’ve been harmed?

We have built a page to help connect the dots. We understand going through a patient injury can be a very challenging process to navigate. Our global network includes many organizations that provide resources and support to those who have experienced an injury due to a medical error.

What is a medical error?

The term medical error may be new to you. A medical error is a preventable adverse effect of care, whether or not it is evident or harmful to the patient. This might include an inaccurate or incomplete diagnosis or treatment of a disease, injury, syndrome, behavior, infection, or other ailments.


  • Your son tests positive for COVID-19 and is admitted to the hospital. Due to the lack of masks your son’s caregiver isn’t able to stop the spread of the infection and is also infected. This is preventable.
  • Your grandmother goes into the hospital for a hip replacement and gets an infection at the site of her surgery and dies five days later. This is preventable.
  • Your neighbor has an asthma attack during allergy season and goes to the emergency department for relief. The medication they give to your neighbor is 10x’s stronger than it should be and he dies. This is preventable. 
  • Your brother is in a skateboarding accident, hits his head and becomes unconscious. In the hospital, they put a tube in his trachea, and it becomes dislodged and he dies. This is preventable.