Federal Report Finds Most Medical Mistakes Go Unreported, Uncorrected

As a condition of receiving Medicare payments from the government, hospitals are required to track medical errors and other adverse patient events, analyze their causes, and come up with measures to help prevent similar mistakes in the future. Yet, according to a federal study released in early 2012, this is not happening consistently in most medical facilities.

Just One in Seven Errors Reported By Hospital Employees

In the new study from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, federal investigators reviewed a representative sample of Medicare patient records from 189 hospitals across the country. Using the records, independent doctors helped flag "adverse events," defined as significant harm experienced by patients as a result of medical care. Then, researchers looked to hospitals' official incident reporting systems to identify whether adverse events had been appropriately reported and addressed.

The results were troubling: just one out of every seven adverse events was reported. Of all adverse events, 14 percent were properly reported, 61 percent were not reported because hospital staff members failed to recognize what had happened as a reportable event and 25 percent were events that staff normally reported but did not report in that particular instance (of the last category, HHS officials pointed out that employees may have been afraid to admit their own mistakes or bring attention to the mistakes of a colleague).

Even those adverse events that were properly reported rarely led to improvements in patient care. An actual change in policies or procedures stemmed from just 12.5 percent of reported adverse events.

Non-Reporting Harms Patient Safety

When medical mistakes are not reported or not addressed, hospitals are bound to repeat them. Proper reporting and accountability helps keep patients safe. In response to the results of the HHS study, federal officials plan to create a list of "reportable events" to help clear confusion among caregivers as to which medical occurrences need to be reported. However, that alone may not be enough.

A Toledo medical malpractice lawyer can help injured patients or their families spread the word about hospital errors. A medical malpractice lawsuit brings visibility to harmful errors, and creates financial incentives that encourage hospitals to change dangerous practices.

If you or a loved one has undergone medical treatment and you suspect that an error by a caregiver may have caused harm, you should contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney. Your attorney can help you collect the fair compensation you deserve, and can empower you to prevent others from suffering similarly in the future.