Hospitals report only 1% of patient harm events

Although about 60 percent of patient harm events occurred at hospitals in states with reporting systems, only 12 percent of the events met state requirements for reporting, according to new report from the Office of the Inspector General released today that looked at Medicare beneficiaries discharged in October 2008.

What's more, hospitals reported only 1 percent of the adverse and temporary harm events. Many of the unreported events that require reporting under state regulations, involve serious harm, including six patient deaths, the OIG noted in a spotlight.

However, the OIG acknowledges that low levels of reporting to state systems likely stem from hospital staff not knowing that patient-safety incidents are reportable events, not hospitals failing to report known events.

In light of previous OIG reports, hospitals are changing systems to reduce the likelihood of human error and implementing processes that are proven to provide better care with less risk of harm, Ruth Ann Dorrill, deputy regional inspector general for the Office of Evaluation and Inspections, said a podcast.

For example, using hospital checklists can help providers reduce infection rates, save money and cut the risk of death for surgical patients practically in half.

Another threat to patient safety is that most health professionals are afraid to report errors, worried that their mistakes and event reports will be held against them.

However, the OIG findings could raise the financial stakes to improve adverse event reporting systems. Patient harm events for one month alone cost the Medicare program $324 million, according to the report.

To learn more:
- read the report summary and spotlight
- listen to the OIG podcast