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Because so many medical errors go unreported, the Obama Administration is developing a program for patients to report the harm they may have experienced while in the hospital or with medical caregivers, according to a New York Times article.

Be it improper medication or doses, surgical error, misdiagnosis, or other medical oversight, thousands of hospital errors and cases of physician negligence go unreported each year. Federal officials believe patients have a wealth of information that could be used to help improve the care given by medical providers.

The program asks patients to fill out a questionnaire that requests a description of what went wrong, the medical provider’s name, and permission to share responses with medical providers so that future mistakes can be avoided. These questionnaires would be available in hospitals and doctors’ offices, and information describing the program would be available through pharmacies and insurance companies or mailed directly to patients. The reporting system could be accessed via a website or through a telephone interview. Reporting would still be voluntary and confidential, unless, as noted above, patients give permission for their experience to be shared with medical providers.

Dr. Kevin J. Bozic, chairman of the Council on Research and Quality at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, said it was also important that the information patients provide in the reports be verified in their medical records, because patients could think they were victims of nursing error or medical harm when they were not. Though patients’ reports could be helpful because they and their family members have more opportunity to see things that busy caregivers may miss, patients also know less of what to expect. Patients offering to report a medical error could mischaracterize a situation that a doctor would recognize as perfectly normal.

Many hospitals and medical caregivers welcome the program. Although the information contained in reports could cause liability issues or result in loss of funding, caregivers want to know the kinds of mistakes taking place so that they are better able to correct them and take care of patients in the future.

40 Comments

  1. Gravatar for jc

    Sounds like another program to provide information to plaintiff attorneys so that they can file frivolous lawsuits against physicians. Another big waste of time.

  2. Gravatar for William Eadie

    Welcome back Dr. John. As you are well aware, the best way to reduce the cost of malpractice is to reduce malpractice, which works. And the "frivolous lawsuit" nonsense has been discredited for years--there is no lawsuit crisis, and there never has been. Indeed, most cases of malpractice are not even brought as lawsuits. Let that sink in a bit.

    Examine what happened with one clinic's OB care, where lawsuit payouts dropped 99% when they implemented simple, common sense improvements to patient care: http://cleveland.legalexaminer.com/medical-malpractice/real-medical-malpractice-reform-in-new-yorkits-about-patient-safety-stupid.aspx?googleid=289062

  3. Gravatar for jc

    80% of medical malpractice suits which go to trial are won by the defendant doctor. That means that plaintiff attorneys lose 80% of the time - - a failure rate unmatched in American industry. Saying that there are no frivolous lawsuits is Bill Eadie's way of denying reality. How about allowing docs to coutersue negligent plaintiff attorneys for filing frivolous lawsuits, after the docs win their malpractice suit? There is a cost to frivolous malpractice litigation, why should plaintiff attorneys be given an entitlement to take physicians to court on frivolous cases and burn up valuable physician and court time on trivial issues?

  4. Gravatar for Miranda S. Miller
    Miranda S. Miller

    Dear Dr. John:

    Thank you for reading & commenting on my intern's article, but we're getting further off-topic. The fact is, doctors, like all humans, make mistakes. Patients should be able to report those mistakes. Do you at least agree with that statement?

    As a side note, statistics without a source mean nothing. As a further side note, most doctors, hospitals, and healthcare providers settle out of court to avoid trial.

  5. Gravatar for jc

    Miranda:

    These are the statistics from malpractice jury trial cases in Pennsylvania from 2007-2010

    Year Cases Def Verdicts %Def Verdicts

    2010 163 133 81.6%

    2009 154 131 85.1%

    2008 161 131 81.4%

    2007 185 153 82.7%

    I cannot find these statistics from Ohio, but they are probably similar. Plaintiff attorneys lose about 80% of malpractice cases that go to trial, a failure rate unmatched in American Industry.

    I do not know if I agree with patients being able to report "mistakes". Who do they report these "mistakes" to? How do patients know these are truely "mistakes" and not simply the progression of their disease? Will these reports be made public possibly allowing unjust publicity of providers and unjust legal liability?

    As a side note, most malpractice suits against doctors are dropped without payment, however the fact that a lawsuit has been filed against that doctor stays on that doctors record forever! Yes, even if the doctor had no liability, he has to report that malpractice suit whenever he applies for hospital staff privileges or a state license.

  6. Gravatar for jc

    Miranda - -Now lets talk about why plaintiff attorneys lose 80% of malpractice trials that go to court. Well, malpractice litigation is very technical difficult litigation requiring significant legal and medical expertise. Yet the Ohio Bar Association has no training program for lawyers to do this type of litigation. All a lawyer has to do is pass the Ohio Bar and he can sue a doctor. It is the medical equivalent of allowing a doctor to finish an internship and do complex brain surgery the next day without any training whatsoever! No hospital in Ohio would ever allow this! Yet the Ohio Bar Association says that this is standard practice. Is it any wonder that plaintiff attorneys lose 80% of their malpractice cases at trial?

  7. Gravatar for William Eadie

    JC is up to his old tricks again--ignoring the facts and making wild assumptions. No, JC, losing a case does not mean it was "frivolous"--the whole reason we have a court system with a jury (under the Constitution) is that we understand people may reasonably disagree--and it is up to the jury to set the standard of care, not you.

    In any event, people get hurt by medical failures a lot less when hospitals and doctors take steps to improve care--not by shutting down people's constitutional rights.

    As a final note, the suggestion that people blunder into med mal cases in Ohio is absurd. These cases are expensive, complex, and risky to all involved in terms of time, money, and energy. Fewer attorneys are handling them than ever. But keep changing the subject, it's all you have.

  8. Gravatar for jc

    Bill- -it is not a wild assumption to conclude that when 80% of med mal cases that go to trial are lost by the plaintiff attorneys, that a substantial percentage of these cases are frivolous and should not have been tried in the first place. If you truly believe the court system is the best way to resolve complaints, then we should allow doctors to countersue plaintiff attorneys who bring frivolous litigation.

    Doctors, patients, hospitals and even plaintiff attorneys get hurt a lot less when plaintiff attorneys take the time to carefully review cases and use 180 day letters prior to running off and filing litigation. Don't tell me that plaintiff attorneys carefully evaluate all their cases. I have seen a number of cases filed without affidavits of merit, blanket litigation against every doc who is on the chart, pursuit of claims long after lack of liability has been firmly established. I can give examples of all these claims, and examples of blatant legal malpractice by the plaintiff attorneys in their client representation. The problem is a total lack of training in medical legal litigation by the legal profession.

  9. Gravatar for William Eadie

    Dr. J, I appreciate you willingness in this last comment to be both polite and lucid.

    You state that "I have seen a number of cases filed without affidavits of merit, blanket litigation against every doc who is on the chart, pursuit of claims long after lack of liability has been firmly established." My response is that, ironically, it is the tort "reform" movement that pushes exactly the type of litigation you hate.

    Example 1: ultra-short 1 year statute of limitations. There really is no excuse or justification for this. If I have a client walk in with a clear liability med mal case, but they were treated at a hospital that will take 3 months (at least) to produce records of which doctors did what, and all of those doctors have separate corporations (tricky doctors!) and the hospital won't confirm or deny which doc is an employee or not, guess what? Not only should the attorney file against all the Tx docs who might have committed malpractice, it might be legal malpractice NOT to do so. Many victims of preventable harms call me AFTER the 1 year. Why? Because they, like everyone else, are more concerned about getting better, not calling a lawyer. God bless 'em. The SOL on these claims should be 4 years or longer, not 1 year.

  10. Gravatar for William Eadie

    Example 2: evisceration of the "John Doe" pleading.

    Under this principle, a client who knows there were other, unknown docs involved does not need to "shotgun" plead all the docs and nurses, they can plead who they know (remember, they need to file quickly because of the ultra-short SOL) and "john Doe" the rest. Turns out only 1 other doc involved? Great, amend to add them, not doctors who might not have anything to do with it.

    The conservative Ohio Supreme Court got rid of this--strong insurance lobby and out-of-state contributions to support certain candidates has been suggested, by some, as a reason for these types of decisions. helps insurance companies, hurts docs (and lawyers and victims).

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