A new report regarding a study of Medicare patients who were injured in hospitals found that only one in seven hospital errors were reported. And when the medical errors and hospital accidents were reported and subsequently investigated, hospitals rarely changed their practices to prevent future adverse events. Some of the unreported problems resulted in the death of patients.
Medicare rules require hospitals to track and analyze adverse events (including medication errors, hospital-acquired infections, pressure ulcers (bedsores), changes in mental status due to misuse of painkillers, excessive bleeding due to the improper use of blood thinners, and other events that cause significant harm to Medicare patients) and then implement changes to reduce or eliminate future adverse events.
The study found that it is not the fear of repercussions from reporting adverse events that is the main reason for the under-reporting — the problem is that hospital employees do not understand what constitutes patient harm or recognize the harm caused to patients by the adverse events that should have been reported (sometimes hospital employees may have thought that someone else would report the adverse event, that there was no need to report the adverse event because it was unlikely to happen again, or that the opposite was true: that the adverse event happens so often that there was no need to report it).
The Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services estimated that more than 130,000 Medicare beneficiaries suffer from one or more adverse events in the hospital per month.
In response to the study’s findings, Medicare intends to develop a list of “reportable events” that must be reported to reduce confusion among hospital employees about what events must be reported. Medicare recommends that hospitals provide their employees with specific and detailed instructions regarding the reporting of adverse events that do occur.
The numbers cited in the study are outrageous and mind-numbing: 6 out of 7 adverse events (including many events that would be considered medical malpractice) that occur in hospitals are never reported; over 130,000 Medicare patients suffer one or more adverse events in hospitals each and every month.
These statistics raise many issues and concerns for us, including:
— What are the reasons why so many medical malpractice events occur in hospitals and what can be done to slash the number of adverse events?
— How many hospital patients suffer injuries due to medical malpractice who are never advised about the cause of their suffering and injuries?
— How many medical malpractice hospital patients never bring a medical malpractice claim for their damages because their injuries are not reported to and investigated by the hospital?
— How much taxpayer money is being spent on medical care that is necessary due solely to injuries suffered as a result of medical malpractice that should instead be paid by the medical malpractice insurance carriers of the negligent medical providers?
— Why are medical malpractice reforms focused on reducing the amounts that medical malpractice victims may recover for their injuries instead of reforms that would reduce the vast number of medical malpractice events that occur in hospitals?
If you, a family member, or a close friend have been injured due to medical malpractice that occurred in a hospital, in a nursing home, or in another medical setting, you should seek the advice of a medical malpractice attorney to learn about your rights and responsibilities in bringing a medical malpractice claim.
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