According to a recent study published in the Journal of Patient Safety, every year over 400,000 people die from preventable medical error and scores more are harmed. In light of this, it can be said with certainty that Medical error is a serious issue in health care, and all of us deserve to be better informed about when medical error has occurred and about our providers’ performance records.
Unfortunately, only a handful of states have laws which require hospitals to report medical errors to the public at present. Consumers are able to find information about medical errors at the federal level on Hospital Compare, a website run by Medicare, but that information is limited. Recent efforts under the Affordable Care Act have tried to increase transparency, but time will tell whether this is successful.
Health care institutions across the country have taken steps to increase transparency, but hospitals and doctors are not always trustworthy in the way they report medical errors. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services conducted one study which found that hospitals do not report 85 percent of the errors and other complications which Medicare patients have to endure.
Doctors, for their part, often choose not to disclose errors out of fear of litigation and there are few clear rules for hospitals to follow in shaping policies related to admission of errors. All of this is unfortunate, because increased transparency could do the medical system a lot of good by allowing patients to feel informed and to make better choices.
For their part, patients not only need to demand better transparency, but also be aware of their need for advocacy in dealing with cases of genuine malpractice. Those who have been harmed by a negligent physician or other health care provider need to understand their rights for recovery. The best way to do this is by working with an experienced medical malpractice attorney.
Source: The Baltimore Sun, “Maryland hospitals aren’t reporting all errors and complication, experts say,” July 26, 2014.