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Most Medical Errors Go Unreported

Many of our posts to this blog involve highlighting examples of medical malpractice. In that way we hope to raise awareness of the types of errors that occur, the prevalence of the problem, and the ways in which victims are able to seek redress for their suffering. Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti also strive to encourage those who have fallen victim to take steps to report their concerns. It is only that way that we can truly send a message to hospitals and other medical professionals about the prevalence of medical errors and the urgent need to work toward their elimination.

A new story by Heart Newspapers affirms that need of better reporting of medical errors. After discussing the tragic death of a 47-year old man following a medication error, the story explains that the vast majority of hospitals in the area are still failing to properly report their medical errors. Not all hospitals are required to report their errors specifically. Even those that do report them, however, likely only include a fraction of the mistakes that actually take place.

One of the key problems of underreporting is the ineffective manner in which reporting systems are created. Generally, strange rules determine whether a certain mistake does or does not count as one which must be documented in the report. “Categories” are created that must be reported, and if an error does not fall into one of those specific categories, there is no reporting-regardless of whether the problem was just as much a preventable mistakes as others.

The improper reporting is a problem, because experts have consistently shown that reporting and analysis leads to corrective measures being taken and future lives being saved. For example, the case highlighted in the story explains how failure to follow medication protocols led to the death of the 47-year old man. However, essentially through “loopholes” in the categories, that death was never reported as a mistake. Consequently, that particular hospital is still able to claim that is has not had a single medical error in the last four years. It is a fictitious designation that misleads future patients and obscures that fact that serious reform needs to be undertaken.