KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

National, State Efforts Seek To Reduce Medical Errors

The Wall Street Journal: "Errors made by doctors, nurses and other medical caregivers cause 44,000 to 98,000 deaths a year. Hospital infections, many considered preventable, take another 100,000 lives. ... Hospitals are taking what might seem like a surprising approach to confronting the problem: Not only are they trying to improve safety and reduce malpractice claims, they're also coming up with procedures for handling-and even consoling-staffers who make inadvertent mistakes."

"The National Quality Forum, a government-advisory body that sets voluntary safety standards for hospitals, has developed a Care of the Caregiver standard, calling on hospitals to treat traumatized staffers involved in errors as patients requiring care, then involving them in the investigation of what went wrong if their behavior was not found to be reckless or intentional. ... Safety advocates and nursing groups also question the use of criminal charges brought against nurses and doctors who make unintentional mistakes, saying they set a chilling precedent" (Landro, 3/16).

The Los Angeles Times reports on California's program to keep track of errors in hospitals: "The mistakes are referred to as 'never events' because they are avoidable, and should 'never' happen. Among the most common errors were bed sores acquired after hospital admission (1,036), retention of a foreign object in a patient (198), death associated with a fall (42) and death during or up to 24 hours after surgery (41). The state began requiring hospitals to report certain preventable errors in 2007. Patient advocates argue that such errors increase the cost of healthcare for all Californians. ..."

"However, hospitals say that not all the mistakes reported to the state are their fault, and that a final review will determine that some of them are non-hospital related. Of 1,224 errors reported in the year before last, investigators eventually faulted hospitals for 480 of them" (Hennessy-Fiske, 3/15).

Meanwhile, The Des Moines Register reports "[t]he Iowa Hospital Association is objecting to attempts to have a state agency collect and publish information about the quality of services performed by hospitals and other health care providers. Association Vice President Greg Boattenhamer told legislators Monday that the state doesn't need to force the issue because his group is cooperating with voluntary efforts to share such information. ... Consumer advocates have pushed for mandatory disclosure of health care quality data, including infection rates at hospitals. They say such publication, already provided in some other states, would add pressure for improvements in patient safety and quality of care" (Leys, 3/16).

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