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86% of Hospital Harm Goes Unreported

January 9, 2012 — More than 86% of hospital errors that result in harm to Medicare patients go unreported, according to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG). These unreported events included permanent disability and death. If you have been injured or know someone who has been injured during hospital treatment, contact a lawyer at The Schmidt Firm, PLLC. You may have a hospital malpractice lawsuit and be entitled to compensation.

In 2010, a previous OIG report found that 13.5% of Medicare beneficiaries in the hospital experience some type of adverse event that leads to more time in the hospital, going on life-support, permanent disability, or death. Some common types of incidents that result in patient harm are infection, pharmacy or medication error, events related to surgery or other procedure, and events related to patient care. An additional 13.5% experienced some event that required additional treatment, but was not life-threatening.

It is vital that these events be reported to hospital administrators, because safety issues can only be addressed if they are reported. Administrators can then improve treatment.

Despite the fact that all hospitals surveyed had incident reporting systems, they had surprisingly low reporting rates for adverse events. Overall, only 14% of adverse events were entered in the system.

The low reporting rate is unexpected, because a condition of participation in the Medicare program is that hospitals “track medical errors and adverse patient events, analyze their causes, and implement preventative actions and mechanisms that include feedback and learning throughout the hospital.”

Of the 189 hospitals surveyed, all had incident reporting systems designed to capture instances of patient harm. Yet administrators at only 34 hospitals reported that they expected staff to report patient harm or circumstances that could lead to harm. The administrators reported that they relied heavily on these reports to improve care and prevent future harm.

However, more than 86% of incidents were never reported. The OIG analysis found that a major reason for this was because hospital staff did not know what constituted a reportable event. Of the unreported events, 62% were unreported because the staff did not think the adverse event was reportable, and 25% were unreported because the staff commonly reported the event but not in this particular case.

The most common reason the errors were not reported was because the event was thought to be a common side effect of treatment, and the event was so common, the nurses or doctors thought it did not need to be reported. For example, only one out of 17 instances of catheter infection were reported. During the study, only 2 out of 18 events that led to permanent disability or death were reported (including hospital-acquired infections, and fatal bleeding caused hospital-administered by blood-thinning medication).

The OIG recommended that hospitals collaborate to create a list of adverse events and provide technical assistance to help the hospitals use the data. Hospital staff need to be educated about the full range of patient harm, so they know what to report.

How do I contact a Lawyer for a Hospital Malpractice Lawsuit?

The Schmidt Firm, PLLC is currently accepting hospital induced injury cases in all 50 states. If you or somebody you know was harmed during hospital treatment, you should contact our lawyers immediately for a free case consultation. Please use the form below to contact our Hospital Malpractice Litigation Group or call toll free 24 hours a day at (866) 920-0753.

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