In our last post, we began looking at a recent study which found that found anesthesiologists may be significantly underreporting medication errors. The problem is particularly prevalent with respect to antibiotic and opioid errors.
Failure to self-report errors is, of course, a problem given that health care providers are best situated to determine whether such problems have occurred when a patient experiences symptoms. Patients trust that if something goes wrong, their providers will be transparent with them and help get to the bottom of the matter. Unfortunately, the research suggests that may not be happening.
Lack of transparency among providers in reporting medication errors is, according to some experts, probably largely driven by fear of punishment. When there is the possibility of reports of medication errors reaching hospital leadership, that is a deterrent to reporting errors. This is probably true even when reporting systems are nonpunitive. Even when cases need to be reviewed for quality assurance purposes, anesthesiologists may still feel that reporting medication errors would harm them.
Regardless of the reasons behind the gross underreporting of medication errors among anesthesiologists, patients have the right to hold providers accountable for their errors, particularly when they cause serious harm. Working with an experienced attorney is important to ensure that the patient is in the best position to gather all the information necessary to establish liability. Again, this can be a challenge when the individuals controlling that information are acting transparently, but a skilled legal advocate can provide zealous advocacy to give an injured patient a fighting chance.