Reporting Medical Errors

There are multiple beliefs as to how the reporting of “medical errors” affects the filing of malpractice lawsuits. One thing is certain: the error rates of hospitals will be tracked, and, in 2014, Medicare will cut payment by one (1) percent to hospitals with the highest rates of patient safety issues. In 2003, Minnesota became the first state to require reporting of events contained in a list drafted by the National Quality Forum (NQF). This list is made up of surgical, product of device, patient protection, care management, environment, or criminal events.

According to the NQF, Minnesota has since been joined by at least ten (10) other states, with others considering implementing a reporting requirement.

The State of Indiana recently released information concerning its reporting of “never events,” which are exactly what it says – events which should never occur. Indiana hospitals and surgery centers reported more than a ten (10) percent decrease in errors between 2008 and 2009, described as the state’s fourth year of reporting. This reduction will certainly be important in the attempts of Indiana’s hospitals to continue to receive the highest level of Medicare payment, a significant factor in increasing a hospital’s bottom line.

A recently released study, commissioned by the Society of Actuaries, revealed that medical errors and the resulting problems cost the U.S. economy $19.5 billion in 2008. The study provided that bed sores were responsible for the highest annual error cost, which was approximately $3.9 billion. This statistic certainly indicates one area in which all efforts for reduction of instances must be explored. In 2009, Indiana reported only twenty-two (22) instances of bed sores in statewide reporting by hospitals, surgery centers, abortion clinics and birthing centers, representing the fewest number since the inception of such reporting.

The implementation of an in-house reporting of medical errors system, similar to that discussed by the NQF, could prove to be useful to all medical providers. Looking at the Indiana example, the reporting and acknowledgment of certain problems, such as patients developing bed sores, assisted the medical providers statewide in reducing such instances. With statistics showing that the highest annual cost for medical errors is attributed to bed sores, placing a focus upon internal reporting as well as the development of means of prevention within hospitals and nursing homes is essential. During these times of transition and adapting to the new era of health care reform, quality improvement and efficiency are emerging as not only issues with respect to malpractice litigation but also as pertains to the continue receipt of Medicare funding. Even if internal reporting currently exists within a facility, conducting an analysis to make such reporting more efficient and effective will be beneficial in both the short and long term.

Author Drew Rothman

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