Hospital employees report only 1 of 7 medical errors, study finds

In keeping with other studies on the subject, a new report shows hospital employees only report and recognize one out of every seven medical errors, accidents or other events that harm Medicare patients. “Yet even after hospitals investigate preventable injuries and infections that have been reported, they rarely change their practices to prevent repetition of the ‘adverse events’,” reports Robert Pear of The New York Times.

While hospitals serving Medicare patients are supposed to track and analyze the cause of medical errors and most hospitals do have a system in place to inform administrators about adverse events, “Hospital staff did not report most events that harmed Medicare beneficiaries,” said Daniel R. Levinson, inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services and author of the report.
Levinson said more than 130,000 beneficiaries were subject to one or more adverse events in hospitals in one month. An adverse event includes medical errors, severe bedsores, hospital-acquired infections, delirium as a result from too many painkillers, or excessive bleeding because blood thinners were used improperly.
The study involved the input of independent doctors, who reviewed 293 cases in which patients had been harmed. Forty of the cases were reported to hospital managers and 28 were investigated by hospitals, “but only five led to changes in policies or practices,” Pear reports.
One of the major issues is that hospital employees don’t recognize when a patient is harmed, Levinson said. In some incidents, “employees assumed someone else would report the episode, or they thought it was so common that it did not need to be reported,” Pear reports. In other cases, employees thought an event was so unusual it wouldn’t be likely to recur.
In answer, Medicare officials said they will come up with a list of “reportable events” for hospitals and employees to use. Hospitals, in turn, should give detailed instructions to employees about what kinds of events should be reported. (Read more)
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