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Where You Go Matters: Medical Malpractice Data Reveals Serious Flaws

The Center for Justice & Democracy, a consumer rights advocacy group out of New York Law School, has compiled a review of medical malpractice incidents and has publicly shared their findings. Entitled “Medical Malpractice: By the Numbers,” the briefing examines recent medical studies and investigations of both inpatient and outpatient groups and facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, and hospice organizations.

The data brings deficiencies in medical care into the spotlight, specifically the care Americans receive within hospitals. Below is a summary of information from the report our medical malpractice attorneys think is particularly informative and worth sharing. All data sources can be found in the CJ&D briefing. We have included the page number of the report that contains the source for each statistic.

HOSPITALS:

  • Pediatrics 
    • 1 in 10 parents discovered an error that their child’s physician missed. (p.112)
    • 62% of these errors were medical mistakes, 30% of which were both preventable and caused the child to suffer. (p.112)
    • The underlying theme in these errors had to do with communication, especially between staff during shift changes. These include faulty charting and medication errors. (p.112)
  • Emergency Rooms 
    • 52.6%, the most “adverse events” reported within any unit of a hospital, happen in the ER. (p.114)
    • If an ER is so busy that patients are treated in the hallway or if another person is present, patients have been found to withhold information and 9 in 10 physicians report modifying their physical exam technique because of this.  Please see our April blog on this topic. (p. 114)
    • In 2017, 10,000 Medicare patients died within 1 week of being discharged from the ER, even though nothing in their file indicated there was a health issue that could lead to death. (p.115)
  • Intensive Care Units 
    • Doctors who override alerts in an electronic medical system did so to the patient’s detriment 20% of the time. (p.119)
    •  A review of autopsies shows that those who died in the ICU were 50% more likely to have had a misdiagnosis play a part than patients admitted from other hospital units. (p.119)
    • Of those patients sent to the morgue from the ICU, 28% had a missed diagnosis at the time of their death, some of which caused or contributed to their passing. (p.119)
  • Hospitals – Off-hours
    • Cardiac arrest patients are more likely to die if they are admitted overnight or on a weekend than during a weekday. (p.117)
    • One study found that heart attack patients were TWICE as likely to die when admitted on the weekend vs. on a weekday. (p.117)
    • Health issues arising solely from hospitalization (called hospital acquired conditions or infections) were more likely on weekends – 5.7% on weekends vs. 3.7% on weekdays. (p.118)
    • Women who deliver a baby on a weekend are more likely to have maternal complications. (p.118)
    • Children having surgery over the weekend are 63% more likely to die.  (p.119)
  • Hospitals – Teaching vs. Non-Teaching Hospitals
    • When given the choice, choose a teaching hospital. A study of Medicare beneficiaries found that adults are less likely to die after discharge from a teaching hospital than a non-teaching facility. (p.121)
    • If death rates at non-teaching hospitals were to match up with teaching hospitals, it would mean an estimated 58,000 fewer deaths a year. (p. 121)

NURSING HOMES/LONG-TERM CARE FACILITIES:

  • 1 in 5 Medicare beneficiaries who are sent to a nursing home after a hospital discharge are sent BACK to the hospital within 30 days. Please see our earlier blog on this topic.  (p. 121)
  • Despite the number of nursing home residents dropping since 2011, the number of complaints that states have received has gone up by 33%. (p.122)
  • Beware of ‘Special Focus Facilities’ past and present: Of 528 facilities who are no longer on this ‘bad list,” over half have since hurt a resident or been cited with an immediate jeopardy violation. (p.123)
  • Nursing homes that have been identified as needing to be on the SFF list aren’t, simply because the federal government doesn’t have enough funding to oversee them all. (p.123)
  • An analysis of death certificates shows the number of long term care residents/patients infected by superbugs has increased 62% since 2003. (p.123)

HOSPICE CENTERS/ORGANIZATIONS:

  • A Kaiser Health News/Time investigation found that in 2015, 1/3 of those who died relied on hospice care, and that between 2012-2017 3,200 official complaints had been submitted against hospice groups in the past 5 years. (p.116)
  • Complaints typically were a disconnect between what was promised to the patient and what was delivered, believed to be blamed on the desire for profits: hospice is paid by Medicare per patient, per day, not per service. (p.117)
  • Hospice groups do not need to recertify and be inspected annually like nursing homes, but instead are inspected on average once every 6 years. (p.116)
  • The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services found deficiencies in care by half of all hospice agencies between January 2012 and February 2017, but only 17 organizations were dropped from Medicare. (p.116)


HOME HEALTH AGENCIES:

  • Between January 2010 and July 2015, CMS found that 1/4 of all home health agencies had made a medication error with a new patient. Many errors related to potentially fatal interactions. (p.115)
  • 1 in 8 home health agencies had committed such serious errors that they were kicked out of the Medicare program until the mistake was resolved. (p.115)

 

Empowered Patients Equals Better Care
Healthcare providers are tasked with caring for patients from birth until the last moments of life, performing both routine and complex services in addition to providing compassionate care. At least that is the expectation. As much of the data compiled by CJ&D from highly-respected sources has shown us, it matters both where you go and when you go for healthcare.  We can’t predict when or where we’ll get sick or need medical attention, but patients and nursing home residents should always feel empowered to ask detailed, specific questions about their healthcare, ensure the provider is informed of your health concerns and medications you are taking, to ask to change providers, to ask to be seen in a quieter, more private space and to push for answers.

If you or someone you love has been harmed by any sort of medical error or negligent or abusive care, please call the medical malpractice attorneys at Chicago’s Levin & Perconti. For nearly 30 years we have successfully fought on behalf of families like yours who have been devastated by an act of medical malpractice or nursing home abuse and neglect. Please, call (312) 332-2872 or complete our online case evaluation form for a free consultation with one of our attorneys.