Hospital Errors

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Quick Read: Most Hospital Errors Go Unreported

(Tim Samoff: Flickr)

(Tim Samoff: Flickr)

The New York Times reports that “hospital employees recognize and report only one out of seven errors, accidents and other events that harm Medicare patients while they are hospitalized.” The Times cites a federal study [PDF] released today.

In order to be paid by Medicare, hospitals must track and report errors. A major study by the Institute of Medicine in 1999 found that between 44,000 and 98,000 hospital patients die each year because of errors that could have been prevented.

Perhaps the most troubling point in the Times piece was this, from Daniel R. Levinson, inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, which published the report:

…the problem is that hospital employees do not recognize “what constitutes patient harm” or do not realize that particular events harmed patients and should be reported.

In some cases, he said, employees assumed someone else would report the episode, or they thought it was so common that it did not need to be reported, or “suspected that the events were isolated incidents unlikely to recur.”