Pennsylvania patient safety officials don’t release which facilities commit errors

Pennsylvania patients may have a hard time getting a hold of specific details on medical errors in the state, according to an article from PublicSource, including where and when fatal mistakes occurred.

The Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority gathers data on medical mistakes from hospitals across the state, according to the article, but it only releases it in the form of statistics that are not broken down by hospital, care home or other medical facility. The authority was created by 2002 state bill designed to respond to the landmark “To Err is Human” report, released in 1999.

Rachel Levine, M.D., the state’s physician general and chair of the authority’s board, told PublicSource the organization is designed to be non-punitive, and medical officials need to feel comfortable reporting errors. “We want to work with them to help improve patient safety. We are not a watchdog,” she told the publication.

About 239,000 medical errors were reported in the state last year, according to the article, and of them 97 percent were considered “near misses”--situations in which protocol was not adhered to, but the patient was not harmed. The more than 7,700 mistakes were considered “serious events” and caused patient harm. The need for hospitals and other medical facilities to tackle and reduce medical errors has become starkly necessary, as study data suggests that such mistakes account for more than 250,000 deaths a year in the U.S., the country’s third-leading cause of death.

If state health leaders intervened or punished a facility for a particularly harmful error is also kept confidential, according to PublicSource. The public is also not informed as to how many investigations the state Department of Health launches into such incidents, and where and when those investigations are conducted, according to the article.

Wes Culp, deputy press secretary for the department, noted that there are other avenues for patients to access safety information, including licensing board reviews and reports that hospitals and other care facilities may include on their websites. Keeping patients informed not only allows them to make better care decisions, but may also cut readmissions and costs for hospitals, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

- read the PublicSource article