Why one state isn't worried about a rise in hospital medical errors

Medical errors are on the rise in Massachusetts, the Boston Globe reports, but according to the state's Department of Public Health, that's actually a good sign.

The new data, expected to be released publicly late Thursday, show that acute care hospitals in the state recorded 821 serious reportable events (SREs) in 2014, a 9 percent increase from 2013 when they reported 753 SREs.

Massachusetts health officials cautioned, however, that this doesn't necessarily mean hospitals in the state are less safe, according to the Globe. In fact, Katherine T. Fillo, the health department's quality improvement manager, told the state's Public Health Council on Wednesday that the numbers are "a positive indicator" that hospitals now do a better job at detecting and reporting errors, the newspaper reported.

Error reporting improved drastically in the state when by 2013, nearly all Massachusetts hospitals had adopted the Department of Public Health's new electronic "Health Care Facility Reporting System," according to a previous report from the health agency. In accordance with new National Quality Forum standards, the state also updated its list of reportable SREs in October 2012, which is likely why, according to past data, the reportable errors jumped 70 percent--from 444 to 753--between 2012 and 2013.

The newest data show that there were 290 serious injuries or deaths resulting from a fall in 2014, a slight rise from 282 incidents in 2012, the Globe reports. The number of wrong-site surgeries decreased, from 36 to 24, and the number of wrong surgeries/procedures performed stayed nearly the same--11 and 10, respectively, in 2013 and 2014. There also were 41 foreign objects left behind during surgery in 2014, compared to 33 in 2013.

Mayo Clinic researchers recently identified a series of nine missteps that often lead to such "never events," many of them human factors such as overconfidence of surgeons and nurses, FierceHealthcare reported. Hospital medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States, according to a 2013 report, and have increasingly come under scrutiny amid the push for transparency in healthcare.

To learn more:
- read the article
- here's the health department's previous report