Only one out of seven medical errors and accidents that harm Medicare patients are reported by hospital employees, The New York Times reported.
Daniel R. Levinson, inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, said even after medical facilities investigate reported injuries or infections, the facility rarely changes its practice to prevent it from happening again.
The report, which came out Friday, said hospitals are required to “track medical errors and adverse patient events, (and) analyze their causes” in order to receive payments from Medicare.
“Despite the existence of incident reporting systems,” Levinson said, “hospital staff did not report most events that harmed Medicare beneficiaries.”
Even the most serious of problems, which caused patients to die, went unreported. Other adverse events included severe bedsores, hospital-acquired infections, delirium from too many painkillers and excessive bleeding due to improper use of blood thinners.
These unreported events were spotted by independent doctors who reviewed patient records.
Levinson’s report said hospital administrators knew their employees were not reporting these adverse events.
Hospital employees do not know “what constitutes patient harm,” Levinson said, which is one of the reasons these events are going unreported. Often, one employee assumed another employee would report the incident, or they figured it was an isolated event that was unlikely to happen again.
Sometimes, the employees thought the events were so common, they didn’t need to be reported.
Medical mistakes are one of the biggest problems we have in health care today,” said Dr. Manny Alvarez, senior managing health editor of FoxNews.com. “We’re beginning to see that with more monitoring, we are identifying more problems. The issue however, is that you have to learn from mistakes – and there are still many doctors and hospitals that do not do that.”
Alvarez said hospitals have to continue to strive to create protocols for safety, as well as medical drills that will enhance good outcomes.
“I do believe that will be the standard of care for the future, but what worries me, is that with an over-utilized health care system and more patients utilizing hospitals as doctors’ offices, things might get worse before they get better,” he added.