When the Terrell • Hogan personal injury and wrongful death law firm identifies important and significant health and safety information, we want to share it with the public; AARP Bulletin’s article by Katharine Greider “The Worst Place To Be When You Are Sick And How To Protect Yourself” provides startling statistics.
In 1999, the Institute of Medicine’s report, “To Err Is Human: Building A Safer Health System” warned us that as many as 98,000 Americans die per year in hospitals from medical errors that could have been prevented. The report was part of a larger project that examined the quality of health care in America and how to achieve a threshold change in its quality. Preventable deaths due to errors in hospitals exceeded deaths from such known threats as motor vehicle wrecks, breast cancer, and AIDS. This report set out a 50% reduction in errors over the next 5 years as the minimum goal and laid out a comprehensive strategy to achieve this. Sadly, this has not been achieved.
According to a January 2012 report released by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Service (HHS), hospital staff failed to report 86% of harms done to hospitalized Medicare patients. This supplemented an 2010 HHS study that had found that 1 in 7 Medicare patients suffered serious long-term injuries or died as a result of hospital care.
Here is another shocking fact: the 2012 report found that even when hospitals investigate preventable injuries and infections that do get reported, rarely do the hospitals change their policies or practices to prevent repetition of these mistakes!
The January 2012 HHS report recommends that the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services collaborate to create a list of potentially reportable events and to provide technical assistance to hospitals in using the list. It also recommends that the list go beyond the harm events already included in the National Quality Forum’s list of 28 Serious Reportable Events and Medicare’s Hospital Acquired Conditions list and include a comprehensive range of possible patient harm. In 2008, Medicare had implemented a policy to limit payment to hospitals for treating avoidable hospital acquired conditions, such as pressure ulcers, falls and trauma, and foreign objects left in a patient after surgery. However, even this economic pressure implemented since 2008 has not reduced the likelihood of harm to patients.
The AARP article also suggests ways that you can protect against hospital mistakes including, particularly, having an advocate, a family member or close friend, with you during your hospitalization to monitor your care, support you, and assist you.
Wayne Hogan is a Florida and National board certified trial lawyer and president of the TERRELL • HOGAN personal injury and wrongful death law firm based in Jacksonville, Florida.
Leslie Goller is an AV rated attorney — the highest rating Martindale-Hubbell gives lawyers — and has 27 years’ experience representing injured consumers.