Is Malpractice More Common Among Medicare Providers?
A recent study issued by the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services revealed a startling statistic: One of every seven hospitalized Medicare beneficiaries is harmed because of problems with the medical care she or he receives.
The study, Adverse Events in Hospitals: National Incidence Among Medicare Beneficiaries, reported that fully “13.1 percent experienced an adverse event resulting in the four most serious categories of patient harm.” Of these, it said, 44 percent were “clearly or likely preventable.” The study also estimated that “1.5 percent of Medicare beneficiaries experienced an event that contributed to their deaths, which projects to 15,000 patients in a single month.”
The term “adverse event” refers to harm done to a patient as a result of incompetent or inadequate medical care, such as an infection caused by an unsterilized needle.
The most frequent adverse events include those related to:
- Medications, such as those that cause excessive bleeding
- Poor patient care, e.g., an improper loading of intravenous fluid
- Surgical procedures errors
- Infections resulting from hospital stays
Another term, “never events,” refers to specific serious events that should never happen in a hospital, such as removing the wrong limb. “Never” events, the report estimates, account for 1.5 percent of Medicate-patient injuries, contributing to the deaths of about 180,000 people a year.
In a single month, October 2008, some 134,000 of them experienced at least one adverse event, ranging from trivial to fatal. Besides the tragic consequences for patients and families, medical errors cost the Medicare program an estimated $324 million in that month alone.
Preventing Adverse and Never Events
What can be done? The current study calls for more stringent oversight of hospital processes and for financially rewarding hospitals that reduce errors. In response, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it would aggressively follow the study’s major recommendations: broaden the definition of adverse events, monitor such events, and intensify efforts to prevent them.
Clearly, Medicare patients must be mindful of a hospital’s reputation when entering it for care. Anyone adversely affected by medical error should consult an experienced attorney, like those at Brown Moore and Associates who have over 35 years of experiencing handling personal injury and medical malpractice cases.