Officials skeptical of 'error-free' status at 87 hospitals

State officials in California suspect that dozens of hospitals have been fudging reports after not reporting any significant medical errors in the last three years, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Since a law took effect three years ago requiring that any mistake that puts a patient at risk of death or serious injury be reported, 87 hospitals--more than 20 percent of the state's 418 total facilities--have not reported any such errors.

"What are the chances that nearly a quarter of California's hospitals didn't have a single medication, surgical or safety error since the reporting requirement became law?" asked state Sen. Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara), who wrote the law, according to the Times.

State officials have given the hospitals a deadline of Nov. 30 to verify their records and report past errors.

Patient advocates say the lack of reported errors suggests hospitals are not policing themselves. "This is a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil problem," said Jamie court, president of the Santa Monica-based advocacy group Consumer Watchdog. "If you're not looking, you're not going to find any. But if you are looking you're more than likely to find some, regardless of the size of the hospital."

The hospitals' claims seem particularly hard to believe, in light of a recent report issued by the HHS Office of the Inspector General that said that one in seven Medicare patients admitted to a U.S. hospital is harmed during a stay.

In California, the state issues substantial fines after investigating errors that put patients at risk for death or serious injury. The fines start at $50,000 for the first incident, and escalate up to $100,000 for a third or subsequent error at the same hospital.

To learn more:
- read this Los Angeles Times article