Federal Government Develops Pilot Program For Patients To Report Medical Errors

On behalf of Pat Crispi at Keogh Crispi PC

Going to the hospital is a frightening experience for many people. Needing surgery or being so ill as to require hospitalization can be a terrifying idea. However, few people worry that in seeking treatment for a medical issue they might be making their situations worse. Healthcare provider errors are serious issues and thousands of people in the U.S. suffer unnecessarily each year as a result. In November 2012, the federal government announced a pilot program for patients to report medical errors in an effort to increase healthcare safety.

Medical errors widespread problem

The problem of medical errors is not new. In 1999, an innovative study entitled To Err Is Human revealed that as many as 98,000 people in the U.S. die as a result of mistakes that healthcare providers make.

Another study published in Health Affairs in April 2011 showed that medical errors are more common than previously believed. Researchers examined hospital records looking for evidence that patients had complications during their stays. They found that one in three patients checking into hospitals suffered an adverse event while in the hospital, such as a bed sore, infection, anesthesia errors or having surgery performed on the wrong body part.

In many cases, the hospitals had voluntary reporting systems, so they were not aware of how many errors actually occurred in their hospitals because the events were unreported by staff.

New reporting system

To address the problem of medical errors, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality announced a proposal for a new centralized medical error reporting program. Patients and their families could report errors on a website and through telephone interviews, with all communication kept confidential. Officials envision offering questionnaires in doctors' offices and hospitals, as well as distributing fliers at pharmacies and in the mail with patients' health insurance Explanation of Benefits forms.

Officials want to collect information regarding:

  • When and where the error happened
  • Specific details regarding the event
  • What type of harm the patient suffered
  • Whether the patient reported the harm and to whom
  • Factors that contributed to the harm

Researchers from the RAND Corporation and the ECRI Institute would then analyze the patient reports to try and develop a more comprehensive understanding of why medical errors occur and what healthcare providers can do to reduce them.

Speak with an attorney

Patients rely on healthcare workers to provide quality care. When they fail to meet their responsibilities, people suffer. If you have been injured by a medical error, talk to a personal injury lawyer with a broad history of experience in medical malpractice claims who can help you recover for your losses.