Medicare Report Reveals Serious Hospital Errors

Inspectors Need to Improve Tracking and Reporting to Address Hospital Negligence

A recent Medicare report released by the agency's inspector general, Daniel Levinson, revealed that more than 180,000 Medicare patients die each year due, in part, to treatment received during a hospital visit. According to Levinson, this death count stems from a failure on the part of hospitals part to report serious errors.

Levinson believes it is up to Medicare inspectors to track these severe mistakes and to hold hospitals accountable for their actions. Exacerbating the problem, Medicare inspectors who find problems at hospitals are not consistently reporting them to national accrediting agencies. This means that patients are continuing to be injured by hospital negligence.

The most critical errors by hospitals include:

  • Surgical fires
  • Patient suicides
  • Sexual assault
  • Surgical mistakes such as surgeries performed on the wrong patient or wrong body part
  • Medical devices left inside patients after surgery

A 2011 study by John's Hopkins investigators found that fear of getting into trouble or embarrassment were the primary reasons physicians and residents failed to report errors.

The study also found that most respondents suggested the process for reporting errors was straightforward.

Lack of Follow-up and Clarity

Once hospital and physician errors are reported, Levinson says no one tracks the progress made by hospitals. Certification and state agencies are supposed to report complaints to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The report suggests that few actually do.

In an attempt to protect the identity of claimants, CMS sometimes fails to inform a hospital what it did wrong. Levinson said if the hospital does not know what it needs to fix, proactive steps toward improvement cannot be made.

Promoting Improvement

According to the Institute of Medicine, improved tracking can be achieved through an increased awareness on the parts of both patients and providers. One Johns Hopkins radiation oncology resident states reporting errors should be promoted as a quality improvement tool, not one for "placing blame and meting out sanctions."

With regard to CMS and improved reporting, Levinson suggests it should:

  • Evaluate compliance with quality-assurance measurements
  • Make clear that state agencies should tell hospitals what mistakes they've made
  • Notify accreditors when hospitals err
  • Increase state agency involvement in monitoring a hospital's improvements

Until the quality of care is improved in hospitals, hospital negligence lawyers are there to help people injured as a result of substandard care, tainted instruments and other unclean conditions. The reality for too many people is that these mistakes do happen and when they do the results are often devastating. People may be seriously injured or even die as a result of improper treatment.

Depending on the injury, medical malpractice may not always be easy to see. If you believe you have been a victim of hospital negligence or surgical errors, you should speak with an experienced New York City medical malpractice lawyer who can advise you of your rights.

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