Report Finds Medicare Medical Errors Grossly Underreported

Last week the results of a federal investigation were released. Federal investigators found that hospital workers only report about 1 in 7 errors, accidents, and other adverse events that harm Medicare patients. What’s more hospitals rarely change their practices when they do report and investigate errors.

The problem is not that hospitals lack appropriate reporting systems. The systems are in place, but workers are allegedly not using the systems. In the past errors often went unreported because staff were afraid to report the errors. Now, the problem seems to be one of recognizing when an error has occurred rather than fear. Investigators found that staff were not reporting errors because they:

  • Were unaware what constituted patient harm.
  • Assumed someone else would make the report.
  • Felt the error was so common that it did not need to be reported.
  • Felt the error was an isolated event unlikely to recur so that there was no need to report it.

Medicare has indicated that it will provide guidance to hospitals to clear up any reporting confusion and to help prevent the underreporting of medical errors in the future.