Medical errors: Shocking statistics call for urgent action

World's renowned experts gathered on Monte Verità in Ascona for an interdisciplinary convention to find solutions

Most recent WHO statistics report 43 million adverse medical events every year. At least half of these unexpected harmful incidents are the result of medical errors. The social and economic costs of this international "epidemic" are alarming:  132 billion US dollars per annum, or 2% of the global health care expenditures, with a higher probability of dying from a medical error than from breast cancer. And these figures may be an underestimation, considering that they do not include data from China and India.

The urgent need for an in-depth academic discussion of this subject has prompted the Institute of Communication and Health (ICH) of the USI Università della Svizzera italiana in Switzerland (USI) to organize - for the first time in the world - a scientific conference with the leading experts from various disciplines (medicine, psychology, law, communication, ethics, and others) to join their research on this sensitive issue. The conference, COME 2013 ("Communicating medical error"), was supported by the Swiss Medical Association (FMH), the Swiss Hospital Association (H+), the Swiss Patient Safety Foundation, and the Swiss Federal Department of Health (BAG).

The COME 2013 conference was the first of its kind -- it joined 80 world-renowned experts from eight academic disciplines and 16 countries to share their ideas on all phases of doctor-patient interaction in the context of medical errors: from error prevention to identification, analysis and reporting -up to the delicate process of error disclosure. Timely and competent communication can prevent further injury, mitigate patient distress, minimize the risk of litigation and strengthen public trust in the medical profession. In collaborative discussions at the COME 2013 conference, the experts laid the foundation for a global, interdisciplinary investigation of the problem - with special emphasis on communication before, during and after the occurrence of medical errors. It is expected that several manuscripts will be published out of this important meeting. Furthermore, a follow-up expert meeting and also a second edition of the COME conference in 2015 is already in the planning.

For more detailed information about COME 2013, please visit or contact Prof. Dr. Annegret Hannawa at

Attachment 1: come2013-picture.pdf [246 KB]