Preventable errors in hospitals still cause hundreds of thousands of death in the U.S. each year, but in some states such as Maryland, the exact number isn't readily available even though hospitals are supposed to report serious medical errors to state regulators, an investigative article from the Baltimore Sun revealed.
Confusion regarding reporting rules and the fear of financial and legal ramifications discourage hospitals from reporting the real number of adverse events, according to the article, and often only become public if someone sues or if regulators find out hospitals fail to report inquiries into such events.
Only seven states across the country require hospitals publicly report mistakes, and even the ones that do report incidents, such as wrong-site surgeries, falls, infections and advanced bedsores, don't indicate where the incidents occurred because that information is considered confidential.
In addition, information may be incorrect due to underreporting. For example, of the millions of patients treated, Maryland hospitals reported no advanced bedsores from 2004 to 2006, 144 cases of bedsores in 2011 and 52 cases in 2013, which is strikingly below the national average of .6 percent of patients who develop advanced bedsores, according to the article.
The Office of Health Care Quality in Maryland investigates adverse events reported by hospitals and complaints from patients, which allows the agency to study patterns and procedures and notice breakdowns in the process or training, according to the article. The number of adverse events reported rose from 24 in 2004 to 365 in 2011, before dropping to 233 in 2013, the Sun reported, although state law shields institutions from public disclosure to encourage accurate reporting.
Greater Baltimore Medical Center instituted an online incident-reporting system so staff could report concerns more easily and use the information to identify trends and improve hospital standards, according to the article. Disclosure can improve care, and in turn, lower the risk of lawsuits and loss of business, CEO John B. Chessare, told the Sun.
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