Government Explores Asking Patients To Report Treatment Mistakes

The federal government is currently considering a new initiative that would allow patients to report medical mistakes directly to the government. Intended to curb dangerous instances of medical malpractice, the program could provide much-needed information to discern recurring treatment errors. Medical mistakes can result in dangerous misdiagnoses, prescription errors, surgery mistakes, and other problems.

Medical errors happen with concerning frequency. Some reports conclude that 25 percent of patients experience some kind of mistake while undergoing treatment. Given the potential danger for serious medical consequences, this rate of error is unacceptable.

As the initiative moves towards a pilot program, the government released a draft survey. The survey includes some sample questions that broadly explore treatment concerns. These questions look for detailed information in a wide range of categories. If the government approves the program, patients will be able to report situations on a website or over the phone. Care providers will distribute informational flyers to notify patients about this option.

Currently, many patient concerns go unreported. Patients may not realize that a medical error has actually occurred or might simply accept a doctor’s mistake as a necessary risk. More information from the patient perspective can help federal authorities understand what goes wrong in various medical procedures.

If the program moves forward, reporting will remain completely voluntary on the part of patients. While the government may sometimes conduct follow-up interviews for more information, it will apparently maintain tight confidentiality limits on all information.

Source: The New York Times, “New System for Patients to Report Medical Mistakes,” Robert Pear, Sept. 22, 2012