Although many of these statistics are from a state many miles away, the Illinois medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti find it important to highlight SeattlePI.com’s look at Washington’s medical error reporting program, which still allows medical errors to fall through the cracks.
Health care workers, facilities, and regulators have been attempting to reduce the astronomical number of medical errors that occur annually in the United States. Despite their efforts, our country has only begun to crawl toward any meaningful reduction in medical errors that cause personal injuries and wrongful deaths. Some states have medical reporting programs; however, flaws occur and these programs have not fully helped to account medical errors. Many facilities are not reporting their mistakes, despite state laws requiring that they do so. Experts opine that error reporting and analysis lead to improved care over time and ultimately save lives. Even in states where medical error reporting is required, only a fraction of the errors that happen are reported. Some of the reasons for the underreporting include lack of funding and lack of enforcement powers.
One nationwide investigation exposed serious problems with medical error reporting programs. Efforts to correct the problems have also fallen short. Common problems included no enforcement, ability to dodge the intent of the law, hands-off oversight, underfunding, and underreporting. According to a federal study released in March, underreporting is the norm. The Health and Human Services Inspector General reported that 93% of serious adverse events in hospitals went undetected by the hospitals’ own internal reporting systems! Additionally, only four states impose fines for underreporting. The Chicago medical malpractice lawyers wonder how many people need to be unnecessarily harmed in order for legislators to add more teeth to these laws.
Stay tuned for the real dangers of medical errors going unreported in tomorrow’s post.