A new report by the US Department of Health and Human Services found that more than 80 percent of hospital errors are unreported by staff. According to ABC News, the report is based on Medicare data. Hospitals are required to document all medical mistakes made in order for Medicare reimbursement but, hospital record keeping is not well regulated.
The Department of Health and Human Services examined reports of 300 “adverse patient events” where patients suffered harm in the hospital. Experts then traced them back to see if the hospital reported the medical error internally. In 61 percent of cases, hospital staff did not even perceive the incidents as mistakes. 25 percent of the cases were errors that are typically reported but somehow were not noted in these particular cases.
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The investigation also revealed that cases where hospital errors were reported rarely lead to a policy change. Instead of learning from mistakes and working to prevent them from recurring, hospitals most often judged medical mistakes to be one-time issues that do not reveal “systemic quality problems.” The most common errors that go unreported include giving a patient the wrong medication, severe bedsores, hospital-based infections, and even patient death.
As a result, the Center for Medicare Services is developing a list of incidents that must be reported as errors. This list will be distributed to all hospitals who receive Medicare funding. Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services have stated that educating hospital staff about what constitutes a mistake will help them to learn how to prevent the errors from ever occurring.