lack of medication error reporting costs lives prevents progress

Most would agree that the first step towards stopping a problem is admitting that there is one. In many support groups, admittance and acceptance are the first steps new members must take before progressing.

It seems that a large number of hospitals could take a cue from these lessons by admitting to medication errors and treatment deficiencies and then reporting them to the proper authorities. In almost all states, this sort of compliance is required.

However, there is a difference between laws that exist and those that are followed. In many states, hospitals continuously fail to report injuries and deaths that occur as a result of medication errors, hospital negligence and other mistakes by physicians and other staff.

Part of the problem is that the guidelines for self-reporting allow for too many caveats. While these could easily be worked around by hospital staff that was ready and willing to self-report, in lieu of such honesty, physicians and nurses can often find ways to reason themselves out of filing a report.

In the death of a Seattle construction worker, state officials determined that the hospital was responsible and should be reprimanded, but found that their failure to report the errors that led to his death was technically justified. As Eric Nalder writes, “there’s no mention of the Clezie case on the state website that publishes reported medical errors. Instead, the website says Yakima Regional has a spotless record going back four years — zero mistakes.”

It’s not just a problem in Seattle, or Pennsylvania. Failure to report medication errors and shortcomings in treatment is a nationwide problem. It’s one that must be addressed if the healthcare system is ever to be truly fixed.

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