Watchdog group: Audit California hospitals' adverse events reporting

A watchdog group called on California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) to audit hospitals for medical errors in the wake of a local news report that found details on such events are not readily available.

In a letter released last week, Consumer Watchdog told Brown, California Health and Human Services Secretary Diane Dooley and Department of Public Health Director Ron Chapman, M.D., they must "take immediate action" in response to the report's revelations. The report by a Bay Area NBC affiliate found that Golden State hospitals reported 6,282 adverse events over the last four fiscal years.

"Given that an estimated 44,000 Californians die every year because of preventable medical error, this tiny number of reported adverse events is literally unbelievable," the report states. "Some hospitals only reported a single adverse event in a year. DPH should recognize that it's a statistical impossibility for any hospital to have such a pristine patient safety record."

Consumer Watchdog called on Brown, Dooley and Chapman to audit all California hospitals for proper error reporting, levying the maximum fine on any hospitals with unreported adverse events. The group further called on them to ensure full online disclosure of the name of the hospital involved in a specific adverse event and any corrective steps taken in response.

The letter comes on the heels of a study published in the Journal of Patient Safety, which found that hospital officials often only admit to patient harm under pressure, and apologies for adverse events are infrequent. This recurring issue led Massachusetts hospitals to create a new initiative that emphasized apologizing for errors and explaining, in detail, what caused them in the first place, FierceHealthcare previously reported. A report last year found medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the U.S., with numbers dramatically higher than those in the Institute of Medicine's 1999 report "To Err is Human."

To learn more:
- Read the Consumer Watchdog's letter (.pdf)
- Here's the study abstract

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