A report released this month by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reveals that the vast majority of hospital errors, many of which result in patient injury or death, go unreported.
An astonishing 80 percent of such errors are never reported by medical personnel, some of whom may tell the grieving families of seriously injured or deceased patients that “these things just happen.” However, some of these unreported errors could be considered a result of hospital negligence, which would allow patients and families to take legal action against doctors, hospitals and nurses in order to seek compensation for their damages.
The report studied the treatment of hospitalized Medicare patients. It shockingly also revealed that the majority of medical facilities where errors were officially reported did not alter their routines or policies following the report of an error in order to prevent reoccurrences of the same mistakes.The types of errors that commonly occur include administration of the incorrect medication to a patient, infections contracted in the hospital, bedsores patients develop from immobility in hospital beds and a variety of other errors that can culminate in serious health problems or death.
The report further stated that in 61 percent of the unreported cases of hospital errors, employees of the facilities did not themselves realize that the mistakes took place. Medical errors that caused death or infection were no more likely to be reported by medical personnel than were less serious problems, the report found. In some instances, medical personnel may have decided not to report colleagues’ mistakes for fear of retaliation.
An earlier study from April 2011 estimates that up to 90 percent of the mistakes made in hospitals across the U.S. are not detected by current monitoring systems, and that as many as one in three hospital patients will suffer further injuries while hospitalized. More than 40 percent of hospital mistakes are considered to be preventable.
Source: ABC News, “Report: Hospital Errors Often Unreported,” Lara Salahi, Jan. 6, 2012