Medical Error Reporting Lost in Healthcare Reform Debate

Patient safety and healthcare industry accountability have been pushed to the side in the midst of the clamor over the public option debate in the latest battle concerning healthcare reform. This is a mistake that has grave public safety ramifications. It’s estimated that 200,000 Americans die from common medical errors that lead to failures to diagnose, misdiagnoses, brain injuries, botched births, and wrong side surgeries. These statistics are alarming and could be addressed with mandatory reporting of medical errors and a system that responds in a corrective way to these medical errors.
The Dead by Mistake ( website notes that certain procedures could be mandated to avoid such errors. “For example, there could be regulations for marking a surgical site or a checklist for inserting a catheter. Both are known practices for avoiding medical errors — wrong site surgery and hospital-acquired infections — but their use is not widespread.”
In spite of the errors, mandatory medical error reporting has been blocked by doctors and medical associations who fear medical malpractice lawsuits and have a general distaste for oversight.
The journalists at Dead by Mistake recommend that the public engage in this important issue. On their website, they’ve listed some things the general public can do to raise awareness of this important issue:
– Ask AHRQ to publish hospital-specific information on safety, (301) 427-1364,
– Ask your state health officials to release hospital-specific information on errors and infections.
– Find out if your hospital is accredited: Joint Commission,; and Health Facilities Accreditation Program,
– Ask your local hospital if it participates in Leapfrog Group’s hospital survey and if not, ask why,
– Ask your hospital to voluntarily release its error and infection rates.
– Ask your hospital if it has adopted the National Quality Forum’s policy on full and immediate disclosure of errors to patients and their families.
– Demand that medical professional societies take responsibility for errors that occur in their profession and address them systematically.
– Join Consumer Union’s “Safe Patient” campaign,
– Report medical errors that affect your family to your state health department and the Joint Commission, (800) 994-6610,
New Hampshire is in the process of establishing an adverse event reporting system. The system is supposed to ensure that New Hampshire hospitals report at least 28 measures set by a national healthcare quality organization.