When the average American goes to the doctor for medical services, he or she expects that their provider will exercise a reasonable amount of care and prudence with respect to their safety. Yes, most of us are aware that medical errors can and do occur, but it isn’t easy in many cases to know in advance whether or not one is at significant risk.
One thing that can help patients to get a better feel for patient safety is hospital safety ratings by patient advocates. Leapfrog Group recently released its annual Hospital Safety Score, which grades hospitals in terms of their safety performance. The score is based on the ability to avoid medical errors, as well as infection and injury to patients.
Overall, according to the report, there was a 6.3 improvement in hospital safety performance since 2012, which is significant for this area. Unfortunately, there are a significant number of nationally known hospitals which didn’t live up to their high reputation in terms of safety performance.
For the average consumer, knowing a hospital’s safety performance grade can be somewhat helpful, but only when there are realistic alternatives for health care. Health care is a consumer-driven industry to an extent, but there is also a basic standard of care all physicians are held to. Physicians and hospitals that fail to meet their professional duties need to be held accountable.
Accountability can be pressed in several ways, including safety performance assessment such as that conducted by Leapfrog, as well as disciplinary action by state medical boards. Another, and more direct, way is to sue a physician for medical malpractice or a hospital for negligence. Such litigation is not necessarily easy to be successful with, even in a case with relatively strong merit, but it can help a great deal to work with an experienced attorney.
Source: Medscape, “Hospitals Make Steady Progress in Patient Safety: Study,” Mark Crane, May 6, 2014.