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In matters of hospital negligence and medical malpractice, it can be difficult to determine what mistakes were made and who is responsible for the harm caused to the patient. According to a recent report from a leading healthcare organization, a culture rampant among many hospitals and medical centers today make that process even more challenging.

The National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ) is a healthcare trade group focused on improving healthcare and patient safety in this country. Late in 2012 it issued a report titled “A Call to Action: Safeguarding the Integrity of Healthcare Quality and Safety Systems,” which included recommendations for improving the quality of care provided by hospitals as well as ongoing safety reporting. NAHQ worked with several other healthcare organizations – such as the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and the National Patient Safety Foundation – in compiling the report.

The report included several anecdotes that highlight a culture within hospitals that seeks to protect medical mistakes and the healthcare professionals who make them, rather than correct or prevent the medical mistakes in the first place:

  • A hospital’s surgery department chairman pressures a quality manager to withhold reports that she was preparing of a surgery performed to remove a foreign body that was left in a patient from a previous surgery
  • The privileges of a physician at a medical center are threatened when she expresses concern over the standard of care provided by another physician – one who is well-liked and has a high volume of patients
  • A nurse uncovers that a nurse on the shift prior to his gave a medication to the wrong patient. The nurse manager tries to persuade the nurse from submitting a report to the risk management department.

Actions to Encourage Medical Mistake Reporting

The NAHQ report outlined actions the organization said should be taken to address this reporting issue, including:

  • Establish policies that encourage the reporting of errors and eliminate penalties on those who do the reporting
  • The accurate and transparent reporting of patient care data
  • Respond to reported patient care concerns and develop action plans to effectively address gaps in quality and safety

Medical mistakes will happen, especially under stressful conditions, as healthcare providers are human. But that doesn’t mean the victims of their preventable mistakes shouldn’t be compensated. And certainly any mistakes that are made should be reported, not only to provide justice for the victims of medical malpractice but to help ensure that the mistakes don’t happen in the future.