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The causes of medical malpractice underreporting

In our last post we discussed the fact that only one in seven medical malpractice incidents are reported by the Hospitals where they occur; this means Hospital keep under wraps roughly 84 percent of injurious medical errors. The issue of underreporting was revealed in a study conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services which specifically looked at the medical treatment that Medicare patients received. The study found that over 130,000 Medicare recipients experienced medical malpractice in a single month and that even hospital administrators knew that employees were failing to report all of the injuries and infections that occurred.

A study from 1999 attributed most medical malpractice underreporting to the fear that some healthcare professionals had of admitting their mistakes. The most recent data indicates that the new issue is that many hospital employees do not realize that mistakes which cause patient harm should be reported, or that employees assume that someone else will report the problem.

There were also situations in which hospital employees assumed that an adverse event was so isolated or so common that reporting was unnecessary. In response, Medicare officials will create list of adverse medical events which hospitals and employees will be required to always report.

Currently, only about half of the states require hospitals to report adverse events such as infections. It still common for hospitals to routinely underreport infections and other adverse events for fear that these will alert patients to medical negligence. Patients harmed by medical negligence may take their healthcare providers to court and hold them accountable for the damage that they have caused. An experienced California medical malpractice attorney can help these patients fight for compensation that they deserve.

It is important for individuals who are part of health maintenance organizations, such as California’s Kaiser Permanente HMO, which owns its own hospitals, to be represented by attorneys experienced in arbitration. Kaiser Permanente’s group health insurance policy holders are contractually forced to go to arbitration under the terms of their policies. Arbitration can be a complex and confusing process, and those who represent themselves lose about 75 percent of the time.

Source: New York Times, “Report Finds Most Errors at Hospitals Go Unreported,” Robert Pear, Jan. 6, 2012