Obama Adminstration Proposes New System for Reporting Medical Mistakes

An article published in the New York Times highlights the recent efforts of government officials to allow consumers to report unsafe practices and errors by medical professionals. The Obama administration envisions a new reporting system in which patients and their relatives will be able to report narrow escapes and medical errors via telephone interviews or through a website.

This preliminary reporting system is still awaiting approval. The director of the Federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality notes that it will likely to be approved because there’s no other system like it now that allows patients to report unsafe medical events.

Nancy E. Foster, vice president of the American Hospital Association, welcomed the idea, saying it is a great concept, although hospitals have concerns about malpractice liabilities and potential monetary penalties for unsatisfactory performance.

The government wants to find out the nature of the medical errors, whether the errors involved an incorrect procedure or test, operation on the wrong body part, unhygienic care, reactions to a drug or medication overdose, infections, blood clots or anesthesia related problems. Patients may have helpful information that could reveal the reasons for drug mix-ups and radiation overdoses that lead to serious infections, injuries and even deaths every year.

A draft questionnaire requires patients to provide the name and address of the healthcare provider (physician, nurse or other) involved in the medical error. It also asks the patient for permission to share the malpractice reports with treatment providers so that they can understand where they erred and improve patient safety.

Possible reasons for the medical error that patients can choose from include poor communication with the patient or his family, the healthcare provider failing to spend adequate time with the patient, and the healthcare provider failing to respect the patient’s culture, language or race. Reporting is voluntary and all information provided by the patient would be kept confidential.

If this experimental project is approved by the White House, health officials would likely start receiving reports in May 2013. Steps would be taken to make questionnaires available at doctors’ offices and hospital kiosks. Fliers providing details of the project would be emailed to patients’ homes and handed out at pharmacies. Insurance carriers would send out the explanation of benefits.

Medical Malpractice Cases May Come Down

If the pilot project is cleared and more people start reporting medical malpractice, there may be fewer reasons to file a medical mistake lawsuit. According to a 2012 Wolters Kluwer Health survey:

  • 73 percent of patients admit that they are worried about the possibilities for medical mistakes
  • 21 percent of patients stated that a physician wrongly diagnosed their condition
  • Three out of 10 patients revealed that they experienced a medical mistake that concerned them or a family member/close friend

Another New York Times article revealed a shocking fact related to the nation’s biggest for-profit hospital chain. This hospital chain operates more than 160 facilities nationwide. Evidence was discovered that some of the chain’s cardiologists in Florida were unable to explain the medical necessity of many of the procedures they performed on patients. In certain cases, the physicians even made deceptive statements in medical records to show that the procedures were essential.

Preventable medical mistakes can cause serious injury and death. If you or your loved one are victimized by a medical mistake, an experienced Chicago medical malpractice lawyer can help protect your legal rights and fight for the compensation you’re entitled to.

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