In order to receive Medicare payments and reimbursement from the federal government, hospitals are required to track their medical errors and adverse patient events. The hospital has a requirement to analyze these errors, and try to come up with a plan to keep similar mistakes from happening again.
The term “adverse event” covers a wide range of conditions, from bedsores and hospital-acquired infections, to medication errors and the improper use of prescription drugs. In general, if a condition is caused or made worse by a hospital’s treatment, it should be reported as an adverse event.
Though it is mandatory to report these errors, a study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) indicates that most medical facilities are falling far short of their reporting goals. According to the study, only one in seven errors is actually reported by employees of any given hospital.
The HHS study looked at a sample of Medicare patient records from 189 hospitals around the country. The HHS had independent doctors examine the records and flag any “adverse events,” meaning that the patient experienced significant harm as a result of the medical care. After the adverse events were flagged, these records were compared to the hospitals’ incident reports to see if they had been properly reported and corrected.
The results of the study are very concerning for patients. Only 14% of adverse advents had been properly reported, meaning that 6 out of 7 adverse events never made it into the system. The report found that over 60% of medical errors had not been reported because the hospital’s staff failed to realize that the event should have been reported in the first place. In the remaining 25% of adverse events, HHS noted that normally the error would have been reported, but it was simply not noted in that particular case. This often means that a medical professional was afraid of reporting his or her own mistake, or the mistake of a colleague.
Overall, the report from the HHS showed that only errors which involved a patient’s death or irreparable injury were reported to the federal government. In the rest of the errors, either the physician or another health care professional did not believe that reporting was required.
When a hospital fails to hold itself accountable for an adverse event or other error, the hospital cannot correct its mistakes and move forward with improving patient care. Unfortunately, even when mistakes are reported, hospitals are not following up on the adverse event reports in about 30% of the cases.
While it may take time for hospitals to improve their policies and practices, the HHS hopes that creating reportable event guidelines will help streamline the system. When hospitals fail to respond to preventable medical errors, they are doomed to repeat their problems.
If you or your loved one was harmed by a medical error or mistake, you deserve compensation for your injuries. At the Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq., our dedicated medical and legal staff will evaluate the hospital’s error, and will help you develop a medical malpractice case. Dr. Bradley I. Kramer is both a medical doctor and an attorney, and has the unique expertise you need on your side to fight for adequate compensation after an accident or injury.
For a free consultation, contact us by calling (310) 289-2600 and speak with an experienced Los Angeles medical malpractice attorney today.