Good News for Patient Safety

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have decided to retract their earlier decision concerning the reporting of potentially life-threatening errors that occur in hospitals. The reversal comes after media scrutiny and a public outcry for more transparency.  “We are working to make it available as a public-use file for researchers and others who are interested in the data,” CMS spokesman Aaron Albright said in an e-mail. “It’s been requested, so we will make it available.” The information was quietly removed from the government website last summer. The data that was removed included reports on foreign objects left behind in bodies following surgical procedures. According to USA Today, “USA TODAY reported in March 2013 that foreign objects may be retained after surgery twice as often as the government estimates, or up to 6,000 times a year. Sponges, which can embed in intestines, account for more than two-thirds of all incidents. For patients who survive, the complications can last a lifetime, leading some to lose parts of their intestines.” This is a step in the right direction for patient safety. It is crucial that medical errors and hospital errors be made public and those who commit the errors be held accountable.