January 9, 2012 — A new report has found that only 14% of adverse hospital events that harm Medicare patients are reported. If you have been harmed during a hospital visit, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Contact a lawyer at The Clark Firm, LLP for a Texas hospital malpractice lawsuit.
The report, from the Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) follows up on a 2010 report, which found that nearly 14% of Medicare recipients experience an adverse event. In addition, 13.5% had some type of non-life-threatening problem that required more treatment.
Common types of adverse events include hospital-acquired infection, going on life-support, permanent disability, and death. These events are often caused by patient care error, medication error, and surgery complications. Despite nearly one out of four Medicare recipients experiencing some type of adverse event in the hospital, few of these events were reported to hospital administration.
A major reason why hospitals have incident reporting systems is so that they can address safety concerns, improve treatment, and prevent future incidents. Safety issues must be reported first, so administrators can address problems.
The OIG studied 189 hospitals. All the hospitals had incident reporting systems, in which hospital staff submitted reports that detailed the circumstances that led to an adverse event. Nurses submitted nearly all of the incident reports, and administrators reported that they relied heavily on these reports to understand patient harm. Yet administrators at only 34 hospitals said that they expected staff to report patient harm, or even potential circumstances that could cause harm.
The OIG found that the biggest impediment to reporting was that staff were unsure what events needed to be reported. The most common reason for not reporting an event was because the staff was unclear on what type of event needed to be reported. Often, when hospital staff witnessed an adverse event that was thought to be a common side effect of a particular treatment, they did not report it because they thought it was so common, it did not need to be reported.
As an example, only one out of 17 cases of infection caused by catheter were reported. More surprisingly, only 2 out of 18 events that led to serious disability or death were reported. These serious events included fatal bleeding caused by a hospital-administered medication to clear blood clots, and also hospital-acquired infections.
The Inspector General wrote that it is crucial that adverse event reporting systems improve. He recommended that hospitals develop a list of events that always need to be reported, and then educate hospital staff about the list and how to report events.
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