A study recently released by the Department of Health and Human Services reports that as few as one out of seven Medicare patients harmed by medical errors and accidents during hospitalizations are reported. The study, performed by HHS inspector general Daniel R. Levinson, claims that the primary cause of the under-reporting is that many hospital employees do not understand what would be defined as "patient harm", or these employees do not appreciate that a patient has been harmed. In an effort to correct this, Medicare has stated that it will devise a list of "reportable events," which will be available to hospitals and their employees.
In order to receive payment from Medicare, hospitals are required to report incidents of harm to patients, and make efforts to improve care and eliminate similar events in the future. Even with this stipulation, failure to report errors has been rampant, according to the study's findings. Additionally, Levinson found that even when incidents of harm are reported, such as bedsores, infections or medication errors, hospitals rarely make changes to policies or practices.
The Obama Administration, although it has strongly advocated the reduction of medical errors, has left the power to change this with the states. Additional federal reporting requirements are not being planned at this time.
Website Resource: Report Finds Most Errors at Hospitals Go Unreported, New York TImes, Robert Pear, January 6, 2012