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Towards fair reporting of hospital errors

Illinois residents may be interested to hear that a nonprofit advocate of healthcare buyers has recently completed a survey that details the frequency of what it calls "never events;" events involving surgical or nonsurgical errors in hospitals that should never happen. The survey found that these errors are surprisingly common. They happen up to 200 times per day to Medicare patients alone.

A spokesperson for the nonprofit tells of a woman who was stopped by airport security when she went through a metal detector. She and the security guards did not understand why she set off the alarm. An x-ray later showed that a large retracter had been left inside her abdomen during a recent surgical procedure.

Other common hospital mishaps include trauma and falls, unintended cuts and tears sustained during medical treatment and the opening of wounds after surgery. Medicare recently started requiring hospitals to report on nine common mishaps. The nonprofit watchdog found that some hospitals have many more "never events" than others, so it assigned letter grades to some 2500 hospitals to help healthcare purchasers and consumers learn about the safest and most dangerous hospitals.

The American Hospital Association, an organization that lobbies on behalf of hospitals, tried to suppress the information. It claimed that the watchdog's data was unscientific and unfair to hospitals. In general, consumer advocates work towards the transparency that the public should have before people entrust their well-being to hospitals and medical staff. There are, however, indications that the current administration are gradually making headway towards safer hospitals. Plans are in place, for example, to tie Medicare payment to patient safety standards. Those who have suffered a worsened condition or other injuries, whether it was a surgical or nonsurgical error, could be entitled to compensation for damages. A medical malpractice lawyer could assist those in such a situation with seeking compensation.

Source: Forbes, "Bone-Chilling Mistakes Hospitals Make And Why They Don't Want You To Know", Leah Binder, July 15, 2013

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Q: What is medical malpractice?

A: Medical malpractice is negligence committed by a professional health care provider, such as a doctor, nurse, dentist, technician, hospital worker or hospital, whose treatment of a patient departs from a standard of care met by those with similar training and experience, resulting in harm to a patient...

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