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DHHS Study Finds Medical Errors Are Underreported for Medicare Patients

A new study released Friday found that six in seven medical errors are not properly reported when they harm a Medicare patient while they are hospitalized. The report, released by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), is a startling evaluation based on the review of thousands of Medicare patients' records.

In some cases, federal investigators found that hospital and health care employees failed to report even fatal medical errors. Each month, it is believed that more than 130,000 Medicare patients is harmed by an adverse medical event that is preventable. Some patients in hospitals throughout the country experience more than one adverse event in a month.

Hospital employees in the early 1990s reported in studies that they were afraid to report medical errors such as bedsores, infections or medication errors. Today, however, the inspector general of DHHS says that he believes employees do not understand what type of medical error they are required to report.

The report also noted that hospitals failed to take action to protect Medicare patients after they investigated medical errors caused by medical malpractice. When a hospital fails to take action to prevent future harm, additional patients are at risk of harm from the same medical error.

Source: NY Times, "Report Finds Most Errors at Hospitals Go Unreported," Robert Pear, 1/6/2012

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