more than 80 percent of hospital errors are unreported

Most people who have had surgery can relate to feeling nervous before the procedure. A slew of medical professionals rush in and out of your room asking your name and checking your wristband. You may feel cold, uncomfortable and vulnerable sitting in a hospital gown. And when you’re finally taken to the operating room, you may feel overwhelmed by the doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists and surgeons surrounding you.

With so many professionals hovering, asking questions, verifying and re-verifying information, it may be hard to believe that surgical errors still happen. Not only is surgical malpractice a threat in Pennsylvania, but studies suggest that an average of up to seven wrong-side surgeries — one of the most obviously egregious surgical errors — are performed every day throughout the country.

What may be even more frightening is knowing that many instances of wrong-side surgeries and other hospital errors are not reported. In fact, the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that more than 80 percent of hospital errors go unreported by hospital employees.

The report also found that even when hospitals report errors, there are rarely changes to policies and practices to prevent repeat errors.

According to the study, the lack of reporting is partly caused by medical professionals not knowing what constitutes an error that should be reported. That accounted for 61 percent of unreported medical mistakes. The report also showed that another 25 percent of the unreported errors are mistakes that were typically reported, but — for some reason — were not reported.

The medical director at the Center for Innovation in Quality Patient Care at Johns Hopkins University Medical School of Medicine stated that mistakes are inevitable. “We’re always going to make mistakes. What we need to do is reduce harm.”

The Center for Medicare Services plans to develop and distribute a list of adverse events that should be reported. At this point, such a checklist hasn’t been used widely because health care professionals “haven’t acknowledged our fallibility.” The list should be a good start.

Read our upcoming posts to learn more about more causes of surgical errors, as well as steps you can take to help ensure you’re not the victim of a surgical error.

Source: abc NEWS, “Report: Hospital Errors Often Unreported,” Lara Salahi, Jan. 6, 2011

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