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Frightening Report Shows that Less than 1 in 7 Hospital Errors Reported

Our Chicago personal injury attorneys read with concern an article in the New York Times claiming that hospital employees recognize and report only one out of every seven accidents, errors, or other injuries that harm Medicare patients while they are hospitalized.

This frightening report was published by the Department of Health and Human Services after federal investigators found that, despite the fact that almost all hospitals have some type of system to report injuries to patients, “hospital staff did not report most events that harmed Medicare beneficiaries,” said Daniel R. Levinson, inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services. In fact, some of the most serious problems, including some that caused patients to die, were not even reported.

The New York Times stated that the study was undertaken to examine hospitals countrywide; federal investigators identified many unreported events by having independent doctors review patients’ records. In fact, the inspector general estimated that more than 130,000 Medicare beneficiaries experienced one or more adverse events in hospitals in a single month, but only around 14% of these incidents were reported or investigated.

Hospitals owe a duty of care to their patients. Part of that responsibility – and also a condition of being paid under Medicare – is that hospitals are required to “track medical errors and adverse patient events, analyze their causes” and improve care. When hospitals aren’t fulfilling their obligations by reporting the mistakes they make, they are breaching that duty.

Moreover, the study reported that, even when hospitals do investigate preventable injuries and infections that have been reported, they rarely change their practices to prevent repetition of the harmful circumstances, said the New York Times. This is yet another example of a breach in their responsibilities, and when patients are harmed in situations that could have been avoided had more care been taken, an Illinois medical malpractice lawsuit may arise.

As a general rule, when the careless or intentional acts of a doctor, nurse, hospital, or other healthcare provider cause injury to a patient, they may provide the basis for a Chicago medical malpractice lawsuit, and the healthcare professional may be made to pay for damages caused by the injury.

Some of the reasons listed for healthcare workers failing to report injuries were that employees were afraid to admit when they made mistakes, that hospital employees did not recognize “what constituted patient harm,” or that they did not realize that particular events harmed patients and should be reported. Additionally, stated Levinson, in some cases, employees assumed someone else would report the episode, or they thought it was so common that it did not need to be reported.

Nevertheless, whatever the excuse, the statistics are alarming. When patients put their trust in the hands of hospitals and those facilities breach the duty of care owed to their consumers, serious problems can arise. In the future, the New York Times reports, Medicare officials have said that they will develop a list of “reportable events” that hospitals and their employees can use.

However, until then, we can only hope that hospitals take the initiative to be more careful in the future. If you or a loved one have suffered because of a healthcare professional’s negligence, contact an attorney to be advised of your rights under the law. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.