Do Hospitals Investigate Their Medical Errors?

hospital corridor4.jpgWhen something goes horribly wrong with patient care, do hospitals adequately review their catastrophic medical errors?

The U.S. Government Accountability Office, a non-partisan agency that investigates how federal money is spent, recently looked into this question and came up with a troubling answer.

Hospital Errors Rise While Investigations of the Errors Fall

The GAO researched the records of VA hospitals and found that preventable medical mistakes at the hospitals increased 7 percent between 2010 and 2014. However, the government watchdog also found that detailed investigations of medical errors - called root-cause analyses - conducted by the VA dropped 18 percent during the same time.

The GAO reported its findings to VA officials and was told by the VA's National Center for Patient Safety that there was no system-wide internal review into this situation.

Unfortunately, this dismissive attitude toward significant medical errors is not isolated to VA hospitals.

Missouri Hospitals Not Required to Report Their Mistakes

Only 28 states, including Illinois, require their hospitals to report what are termed "adverse events." State law does not require Missouri hospitals to publicly report their mistakes, so many of them don't. They have actively lobbied the Missouri legislature to ensure this level of secrecy continues.

Earlier this year, after an in-depth study of how hospitals across the country handle medical errors, the independent National Patient Safety Foundation released a new set of guidelines for healthcare facilities to follow when conducting root-cause analyses. The guidelines emphasized that hospitals should not only determine why preventable medical mistakes happen but also take steps to make sure the errors are not repeated.

Preventable medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. When mistakes are made and patients are critically injured, you can't always count on healthcare providers to cooperate in revealing what went wrong.

If you were seriously hurt or a loved one died because of a hospital mistake, an attorney who is experienced in medical malpractice lawsuits can conduct an investigation on your behalf to hold accountable those who are responsible.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising.


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