Accountability is a pretty basic concept. Measuring the quality of performance is any field is the only way to truly understand what works, what does not, and what needs to be improved. This applies in all fields, from the law and marketing to any types of sales and medicine. Unfortunately, each Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at our firm has come to appreciate that in the hospital context there are very often huge lapses in measurement and accountability of medical errors made by doctors and hospitals.
This reality was verified again in a recent study released by the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services. Lawyers.com published a piece on the report this week and interviewed our Chicago medical malpractice attorney John Perconti for his perspective on the report. According to the study, doctors only report a shocking 14 percent of errors made when caring for Medicare patients. Obviously this low reporting rate raises serious concerns about the overall level of care provided by these professionals. It is a testament to the fact that much work can still be done to improve the care received.
No one likes to admit when mistakes are made, and it is not surprisingly that doctors are no exception. Medical professionals are not superhuman and they have personal failings just like the rest of us. However, accountability and proper reporting of mistakes remains supremely important in the medical context because lives are on the line when doctors make mistakes. Medical malpractice is troubling whenever it occurs, but is it particularly egregious when it occurs repeatedly because lessons are not learned by practitioners. Lessons can never be learned from previous mistakes when no one is made aware that an error occurred in the first place.
As our Chicago medical malpractice lawyer John Perconti explained, doctors and hospitals have very good reasons to keep their mistakes hidden-but none of those reasons have to do with improving patient safety. Attorney Perconti noted that “Reporting may have negative consequences to creditialing as well as exposure to third party claims. For these reasons, I am not surprised these errors are being under reported.” In other words, doctors don’t want to pay families for the consequences of these errors and they do not want professional repercussions for their mistakes. As a result, they often try to sweep errors under the rug.
As Attorney Perconti knows, failing to reports errors properly is not only a failure to abide by Medicare rules, it also is downright dangerous. The reporting of medical errors leads to corrective action being taken to prevent future problems. These changes are the hallmark of improving hospital safety. As the total number of medical errors continues to remain steady, the need for improvement is ever present.
Another problem, as Perconti noted is that “Doctors and hospitals are often selected based upon their reputation in the community. Under reporting of medical errors gives the consumer a false sense of security…Any reasonable consumer would not select a doctor or hospital with a significant number of medical errors.”
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