Medical errors up 70% in Massachusetts while patient safety improves nationwide

Massachusetts acute care hospitals saw a 70 percent jump in serious medical errors and patient injuries in 2013, an increase health officials attribute to expanded definitions of what constitutes medical harm, the Boston Globe reported.

Acute care hospitals in the state reported 753 incidents, while other types of hospitals reported 206 incidents--including those where patients underwent a procedure on the wrong body part or received contaminated drugs, according to the newspaper. The rise in adverse events is a dramatic increase since it became mandatory for hospitals to report lapses to the government, patients and their families in 2008.

Part of the reason for the hike may be due to the fact that hospitals must now report serious injuries, patient death or injury from failure to follow-up or communicate laboratory, pathology or radiology test results, the Globe reported.

This year hospitals and regulators should have a better idea of whether organizations are actually seeing an increase in errors or if the jumjp was a result of the changes to the reporting criteria, according to the article. Hospital executives must discuss problems with patients and regulators, all while dealing with pressure to treat sicker patients at less cost.

Despite the increase in serious errors in Massachusetts, patient safety as a whole is improving across the country. Nearly one in three hospitals improved their performance by 10 percent or more since 2012, according to the Leapfrog Group's Spring 2014 update, FierceHealthcare previously reported.  

Adverse events are a now a common discussion topic at healthcare systems and hospitals around the country, and it's especially important among C-suite leaders, according to U.S News & World Report. The article cites research from earlier this year that found Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami saw a 63 percent improvement in controlling an antibiotic-resistant bug after top executives received weekly reports on related incidents.

"A lot of folks who look at safety focus on the things we need to do with nurses and physicians," Rishi Sikka, senior vice president of clinical transformation at Advocate Healthcare, a 250-site health system based in Downers Grove, Illinois, told U.S. News. "But none of that works on the frontline if culture and leadership aren't there."

To learn more:
- here's the Boston Globe article
- read the U.S. News article