Getting Information on Fatal Medical Errors can be Difficult

medical records.jpgHealthcare providers are going to make mistakes. Tragically, their mistakes can be fatal. Some estimate as many as 440,000 people die in the United States each year from preventable medical errors, making them the third-leading cause of death in the country.

In this context, it was troubling to hear that the federal government pulled from public view data it has on serious medical errors made by hospitals. Fortunately, due to intense media reporting, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently reversed its decision and once again will post this information on its hospital comparison website.

Medicare previously admitted it stopped reporting on eight serious medical errors made in hospitals across the country. The avoidable hospital mistakes included providing the wrong blood for transfusions, surgical tools left inside patients, and air embolisms – air bubbles left in patient veins that can be deadly.

The new announcement means that this important data will once again be available to consumers, although probably not until later in 2014.

Missouri hospitals report their errors voluntarily to the Missouri Center for Patient Safety a not-for-profit group whose purpose is to promote safe patient environments. In its 2013 compilation of hospital errors, it lists 685 medication errors made by hospitals – many fatal – and 40 instances of a foreign object left inside patients following surgery.

Unfortunately, most hospital medical errors go unreported. A 2012 study conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services showed that hospitals reported only one out of every seven patent medical errors. The department estimated that each month, 130,000 Medicare patients experienced at least one adverse event due to medical mistakes.

Just as bad as not reporting their mistakes, the study revealed that few hospitals changed their procedures to prevent the error from happening in the future.

Many physicians and hospitals don’t own up to their mistakes. If you believe you have been injured or a loved one died due a healthcare provider error, an attorney experienced in medical malpractice cases can investigate and pursue compensation for your loss from all responsible parties.