Medicare patient errors and adverse events going unreported

There's No Substitute for Experience

Most people find being admitted into the hospital scary enough. And while some may find comfort thinking that medical errors are rare, it turns out that the risk may be greater than some imagine, as the majority of medical errors involving Medicare patients go unreported.

According to a recent report, only one out of every seven Medicare patient errors or adverse effects was properly reported by hospital staff. In fact, even some of those events that led to serious adverse patient effects -- like death -- have gone unreported.

Not reporting these events is also in directly violation of the Medicare program, which requires hospitals to track any errors or adverse patient effects, and investigate those events, in order to receive payment from the program.

When looking at why these events are going unreported, Daniel Levinson, who is the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, claims that some hospital staff does not even know what is considered patient harm. Others also assume another colleague reported the incident, or that the issue was either too common to report, or an isolated case.

Levinson also claims that in many of these cases, health administrators knew that the errors and adverse effects were not being reported.

These problems that are going unreported are also quite serious, and include things like bedsores and cases of delirium from painkillers, which could even be signs of medication errors.

In general, when hospitals better monitor and identify problems, many times hospital staff is able to learn from their mistakes. But, when those issues are not reported or properly examined, the risk remains that those medical mistakes will continue to happen.

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