How California medical errors slip under the radar

Records for hundreds of medical errors that occurred at California hospitals are not readily available to the public, according to an investigation by NBC Bay Area.

Although state law requires Golden State hospitals to report medical errors--the third leading cause of death in the United States--to the state Department of Public Health, the totals are only published in an annual report that does not identify individual hospitals, dates or monetary penalties for the errors.

NBC Bay Area filed a public records request and obtained error records listed by hospital, as well as a database of fines for errors and fines for failure to report them, a process that took nearly nine months, according to the article.

The station's investigation found 6,282 adverse events reported to the state over the last four fiscal years, although there is no way for the state to know that hospitals report all errors, and several medical experts told NBC they do not believe providers report all of them.

Stanford Medical Center and University of California, San Francisco Medical Center lead the state in total adverse events, according to the investigation. Most of the events at both facilities were bedsores. "A variety of factors can make patients more susceptible to pressure ulcers, including having multiple medical conditions, being bedridden, and being on certain medications," Stanford said in a statement. "As a leading academic medical center, Stanford Health Care treats some of the sickest patients in the nation, many of whom have much more complex medical conditions than typically seen at community hospitals."

In April, California Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) called on hospitals to reduce medical errors, requesting information from more than 200 California acute care facilities on their efforts to reduce the most common types, FierceHealthcare reported. When she released an update in July, all hospitals that responded said they had worked to reduce errors.

To learn more:
- read the article
- here's the errors data (spreadsheet)
- read the error fines data (spreadsheet)
- check out the failure-to-report fines (spreadsheet)
- read Stanford's statement

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