Medicare’s inspector general released a report this week that supports what Cleveland medical malpractice lawyers have said for years: there needs to be better tracking of serious hospital errors.
According to the report, “hundreds of serious errors go unrecorded.” While hospital inspectors may notice problems, they do not pass this information on to the agencies that matter: hospital accreditation agencies. Even when the hospitals attempt to correct the mistakes, very little is done to follow up on their effectiveness.
Of Medicare patients alone, 15,000 patients died every month last year due in part to preventable errors, including:
- Surgical fires
- Wrong-patient surgery
- Wrong-site surgery
- Surgical objects left in patients
- Sexual assault
While investigators are required to report medical errors to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Medicare study found that reporting happened in only 32 percent of cases.
Medicare officials aren’t the only ones kept in the dark. Hospital patients also have little way of knowing what surgical errors and other adverse events occurred at their hospitals. While hospitals report errors to patient safety organizations under the federal Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act, those reports are generally confidential and not shared with the public.
Many individuals in healthcare claim that public shaming of hospitals would discourage doctors, nurses and other hospital employees from reporting when a medical error occurs.
Where is the accountability? How can we hold hospitals responsible for causing surgical errors and other serious patient injuries? Medical malpractice lawsuits remain one of the only effective ways to do so.
Source: USA Today, “Medicare Report: Improve Tracking of Serious Hospital Errors,” Kelly Kennedy, Nov. 1, 2011.