Government Report Finds Errors At Hospitals Frequently Go Unreported

Only 1 out of 7 errors at hospitals are recognized and reported, according to a new report released by the federal government. A New York Times article reports that federal investigators scrutinized errors, accidents, and other events that harm Medicare patients while they are hospitalized. Our San Diego elder abuse lawyer knows that entrusting a family member to a hospital’s care sometimes can be scary, especially if invasive procedures such as surgery are necessary. Unfortunately, there are a number of problems that can occur when a loved one is hospitalized. For example, painful bedsores can occur when a patient lies in the same position for long periods of time without being rotated by a nurse. Patients who need extra attention are at a serious risk of falling and injuring themselves if left unsupervised. Serious infections can also set in, and a delay in treatment could mean the difference between life and death for an elderly loved one.

hosptial%20hallway.jpgOur San Diego elder abuse attorney knows that incident reporting systems ensure that hospitals hold their doctors and other staff members responsible for adverse events. According to the New York Times, an adverse event is any significant harm a patient experiences as a result of medical care. In order to qualify for payment under Medicare, hospitals must keep track of medical errors and adverse patient events. They must then analyze the causes of those errors and make efforts to improve their care.

However, the government report notes that even when hospitals investigate preventable injuries and infections reported by staff, they rarely alter their practices to stop the repetition of such adverse events. Daniel Levinson, inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, stated the investigation uncovered that some of the most serious problems, including those that caused a patient’s death, were never reported. Independent doctors reviewed patient records in order to uncover unreported events. According to Mr. Levinson, more than 130,000 Medicare beneficiaries experienced one or more adverse events in hospitals in a single month.

There could be many reasons that a hospital fails to report adverse events, including:
• Employees are afraid to admit mistakes
• Employees do not recognize what signs or symptoms constitute patient harm or do not realize that particular events harmed patients and should be reported
• Employees assume someone else will report the adverse event
• Employees believe an incident of harm is so common that it does not need to be reported
• Employees believe an adverse event is so isolated in nature that it is unlikely to recur
In order to address the underreporting of hospital errors, Medicare officials plan to develop a list of “reportable events” that hospitals and their employees can use. They also advise that hospitals should give their employees “detailed, unambiguous instructions” regarding which types of errors warrant reporting.

Hopefully, this report will serve as a wake up call for California hospitals. All hospitals must identify and accurately report adverse events. California is already 1 of 27 states required to publicly report hospital infections. Such accountability measures are crucial in guaranteeing that California seniors receive competent and professional medical care.

No one should ever have to wonder whether the death of a family member or friend was preventable. Our San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer can help you seek financial compensation for mistreatment or wrongful death of an elderly loved one.

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