Study Finds Hospitals Fail to Report Six Out of Seven Medical Errors

When I go to the hospital, I expect that I will be kept safe. At the very least, I hope that if a mistake is made, hospital employees will take responsibility for the error and make efforts to remedy the problem.

Sadly, this is rarely the case. According to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, hospital employees recognize and report only a meager 14 percent – approximately one in seven – of hospital errors impacting Medicare patients.

Common types of adverse events included medication errors, improper use of painkillers and blood thinners, severe bedsores and infections.

Employees Oblivious to Errors

The low reporting frequency is not necessarily due to an intentional attempt to avoid the consequences of medical negligence, but rather to the obliviousness of hospital employees. In more than 60 percent of the cases, hospital employees were not even aware that a reportable error had been made.

The investigation also demonstrated hospitals’ reluctance to learn from their mistakes. Medicare rules require hospitals to track and analyze errors, and then use these adverse events as a way to improve patient care. However, less than two percent of the errors uncovered in the study actually led to changes in hospital policies or practices.

Many of the hospital administrators surveyed in the Office of Inspector General report acknowledged that their facilities were underreporting errors.

Unfortunately, hospitals’ inability or reluctance to identify errors can have tragic consequences. A 2010 HHS study revealed that every month, 15,000 Medicare patients are victims of medical errors that contribute to their deaths.

Hospital Error Victims Have Rights

In many cases, victims of hospital errors will have legal recourse to recover for the harm that was done to them.

However, it is important to begin the process as soon as possible. Proving that an act of medical malpractice has occurred usually requires significant investigation by a skilled team of attorneys and expert witnesses. Victims often have the best outcomes if this team can act while the evidence is still fresh.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a hospital error caused by medical negligence, don’t wait to take action. Contact a New York medical malpractice attorney who can help you understand your rights.