Medical Malpractice – Consumer Reports

The Office of the Inspector General, Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, published results of a study that looked at the number of injuries to patients while in hospital care.  The findings are disturbing.

A hospital is where people go when they need care.  They certainly do not expect to get worse while they are there.  And the other disturbing news is that most hospital errors are never reported.  One sure way to hear about them is when lawyers, fighting for consumers, file lawsuits against hospitals for negligence that causes injury to patients.

This sounds, as conservatives would say, "anti-american."  Suing hosptials is, afterall, what drives up insurance rates for the rest of us.  Not true!  The cost of health care is what drives up insurance rates.  Get your facts straight. 

Profit for medical providers, including hospitals, is what drives rates up.  But I digress…

Number of Patients Injured in Hospitals

The OIG calculated that Medicare patients harmed during that month required an additional $324 million in hospital care. The study estimated the annual cost for these events in hospital care alone at $4.4 billion.

According to the OIG, an estimated 15,000 Medicare patients experienced medical errors in the hospital that contributed to their deaths each month. That amounts to about 180,000 patients annually.

No Reporting Requirements

And amazingly, 25 states and the District of Columbia collect data from hospitals on the incidence of certain medical errors. But only six states have disclosed hospital-specific medical error information to the public. Even worse, half of all states do not have any medical error reporting requirements in place.

Electronic Health Records

And lets all watch how Electronic Health Records contribute to medical malpractice.  Designed to make information more accessible, are the users, doctors and nurses, competent in their usage?  Health information technology (health IT) makes it possible for health care providers to better manage patient care through secure use and sharing of health information.

Health care providers, policymakers, patients, and payers share the vision of a health care system powered by information technology. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 authorizes grants and incentives totaling an estimated $14 billion to $27 billion to promote “meaningful use” of electronic health records (EHRs) by providers.1,2 In the excitement over health information technology, some of the potential risks associated with it have received less attention, such as the possible effects of this technology on medical malpractice liability. Yet even now, the potential for EHRs to ameliorate some sources of stress related to liability while reinforcing others is apparent.

So think about that next time life puts you or a loved one in the hospital.