Many Incidents of Medical Malpractice May Go Unreported by Patients

Medical malpractice, in which a patient is injured or killed due to negligent care, occurs all too frequently. According to a study released in November 2010 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 134,000 Medicare beneficiaries experienced at least one “adverse event” in hospitals in just one month. The study defines an adverse event as any harm to a patient as a result of medical care.

Even more troubling, the study concluded that 15,000 Medicare patients in one month experienced an event during their hospital stay that contributed to their deaths. Physicians who reviewed the records of the patients in the study determined that 44 percent of all adverse events were preventable.

Unfortunately, even these statistics may not accurately reflect how large a problem medical malpractice is in this country. There is a growing concern that many more instances of medical malpractice go unreported or fully reported by health care providers and patients.

Proposed System to Report Medical Malpractice

That’s why the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a federal agency whose mission is to improve the quality of healthcare in the United States, has proposed a program that will help encourage individuals to report any harm they or their family members suffered while under medical care.

The program includes:

• Collecting patient information in a single, consistent system

• Methods for getting information from patients either over the phone or over the Internet

• A follow-up questionnaire for the medical providers involved

Understanding Why Patient Harm Occurred

For each incident of patient harm, the goal is to uncover why it happened, with the proposed patient questionnaire including several possible reasons, such as poor communication by the care provider, a lack of coordination between multiple providers, or a lack of concern shown by the providers. The program is designed to match patients’ information and perceptions with reports from their care providers to get a clearer picture of what went wrong

This is a pilot program currently under review by federal officials. If approved, it will be launched next May.

However, if feel you or a loved one has been a victim of medical malpractice, you always have the right to consult an experienced attorney, who can review your case in-depth.