As part of receiving Medicare payments from the federal government, hospitals are required to maintain records of all medical errors in order to improve care offered to patients.
A new study by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Daniel Levinson, reports that few preventable injuries or infections are actually reported as required. In fact, the report estimated that only about one in seven of the mistakes, accidents and errors that harm Medicare patients is identified and actually reported by hospital staff.
Levinson estimates that in a single month over 130,000 recipients of Medicare benefits experience at least one adverse event while in the hospital. Levinson stated to the New York Times that some of the most egregious errors, including surgical errors and those that resulted in fatalities, go unreported by medical staff.
Reporting Not Always Leading to Changes
What is even more troubling is Levinson’s finding that after preventable “adverse events” are investigated, hospitals “rarely change their practices” to prevent the same errors from happening again. The New York Times detailed common adverse events, which include injuries and errors such as:
- Medication errors
- Infections acquired while in the hospital
- Overusing painkillers
- Excessive bleeding due to blood thinners
- Severe bedsores
Medicare officials stated that they would help hospital staff recognize what is exactly a “reportable event” by compiling a list of adverse events. This should help clear up the confusion that Levinson speculated was the cause of the low reporting numbers.
Without accurate reporting of mistakes and errors changes to improve patient safety cannot be implemented and all patients are put at risk of injury. When steps are not taken to prevent known causes of injury medical malpractice has the potential to occur inadvertently.
Source: New York Times, “Health study of Medicare patients finds most hospital errors unreported,” Robert Pear, Jan. 6, 2012