In order to receive reimbursement from Medicare for services rendered, hospitals are required to report errors that lead to patient harm and analyze what caused the errors to occur. A recent report shows that the majority of medical errors discovered by hospital workers go unreported, even in situations of serious medical malpractice. While almost all hospitals have an official reporting system designed to gather this data, only one out of every seven errors that harm patients actually gets reported.
According to the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, more than 130,000 Medicare patients are harmed in hospitals every month. The harm can range from a hospital-acquired infection, to medication errors, bedsores and serious injuries. Even fatal accidents have gone unreported in some cases. The problem is so widespread, the report indicated that most hospital administrators are aware of the problem and are taking no action to correct it.
Federal investigators analyzed 293 cases where a patient was harmed at a hospital. Of those 293 incidents, only five caused the hospital in question to take any action to change their practices. Only 40 were reported to hospital officials in any way. Most were just ignored by the people we rely on to provide quality medical care and attention.
Hospital employees may have any number of reasons why they did not report incidents where a patient was harmed. Whatever the reasons, the report sends a clear message to the public about the importance of managing your own care. If you or a loved one has been harmed in a hospital, it is up to you to ensure that your rights are protected. You should speak to an attorney if you suspect that an injury or illness was caused by a lack of proper care. Hospitals are not watching out for your best interests.
Source: The New York Times, “Report Finds Most Errors at Hospitals Go Unreported,” by Robert Pear, 6 January 2012