Might Financial Penalties Reduce Preventable Medical Errors?

Portrait

Preventable medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. – ranking just behind heart disease and cancer.

In 2007, in an attempt to reduce the harm done by these errors, the state of California tried something new.  The state instituted a system of fines of up to $125,000 for a specific list of errors that can cause “serious injury or death of a patient” whether or not those medical mistakes were promptly reported.

Interestingly, Medicare also punishes care providers by refusing to pay hospitals found guilty of medical errors and there are Affordable Care Act penalties that apply to some medical errors as well.

And while a few states do fine hospitals for failing to report adverse events, California is the only state in the U.S. that both publicizes and fines for these mistakes.

Since the law’s passage, $17 million in fines have been handed out – bringing adverse publicity and presumably shame to 192 hospitals in California.

The result?

Sadly, there has been no significant reduction in medical errors in California overall since the program was deployed nine years ago.  And the total number of errors is higher today than it was when the program started.

Has there been any improvement?

Oddly, California data is a bit hard to parse on that question.  However, the number of hospital acquired infections and severe bedsores has dropped nationally, while mistakes, such as leaving surgical tools inside of patients, have increased.

Interestingly – no federal law requires that hospitals report their errors – and only 27 states (including Connecticut) require it.

Does that reporting system work?

According to the U.S. Office of the Inspector General, only 12% of preventable errors are ever reported – even in those states requiring those reports.

What does that mean for Connecticut?

Looking at the latest data from the Connecticut Department of Public Health (2015), 471 adverse events were reported to state officials.  If one assumes the U.S. Inspector General is correct about the number of preventable errors that go unreported, there were more likely close to 4,000 medical errors in Connecticut in 2015 – of which 3,500 went unreported.

Among the leading preventable errors in Connecticut hospitals were bedsores, falls, organ perforations, and retention of foreign objects – including surgical tools.

Can our physicians and hospitals do better?  Of course they can.  And they must.  These mistakes take and tragically alter too many lives.

If you or a loved one is ever the victim of a surgical error, a defective drug, the improper prescription of a drug therapy, over-exposure to medical radiation, a hospital acquired infection, a fall while in the hospital, a preventable blood clot, a misdiagnosis, or any form of medical malpractice, call a qualified Connecticut medical malpractice lawyer.  A knowledgeable malpractice attorney can help to ensure that your rights are protected.

RisCassi & Davis has handled hundreds of medical malpractice cases over our more than 60 years serving the people of Connecticut.

What’s more, our Connecticut medical malpractice lawyers have received local and national recognition for our handling of these cases.

We have a great team of legal experts dedicated to medical malpractice in Connecticut.    Please contact us if we can help you.  The consultation is free and there is no obligation of any kind.

 

Photo credit: The U.S. National Archives via Foter.com / No known copyright restrictions

Ever Shortening Hospital Stays…

You probably know someone who had a major hospital procedure who returned home just a day or two later. It’s a story that’s becoming more and more common.
Did you know length of stay is tied at least in part to how hospitals are paid?

As recently as 1980 – the average hospital stay lasted 7.3 days. Now it’s approximately half that amount of time.

What happened?

For one – Medicare stopped paying hospitals for the cost of a stay and started paying tied to a patient’s individual diagnosis.   Under this new “system”, hospitals are paid the same for a given diagnosis whether a patient stays one day – or four. In other words – actuaries (people who compile and analyze statistics – using them to calculate payments) began deciding for doctors and patients when a patient was healthy enough to be discharged – all without seeing the individual patient involved. This change effectively shifted financial “risk” from the government to hospitals – making it more profitable for hospitals to limit time of care – often regardless of patient needs.

Put simply – shorter stays mean greater profit for hospitals.

What has all this meant for patients and their families?

New challenges for caring for loved ones and readmission rates on the rise.

Why are rates rising?

Continue reading “Ever Shortening Hospital Stays…” »

Would Your Hospital Admit A Medical Mistake?

Hopsitals' admission to medical mistakesIt’s estimated that medical errors cost the United States $19.5 billion a year – most of it in added medical costs. And that estimate is considered by many experts to be low.

It is also estimated that physicians in this country make 12 million serious diagnostic medical errors a year… and knowingly prescribe powerful and often toxic drugs that are ineffective 80% of the time.

The truth is that medical mistakes and malpractice are the third leading cause of death in this country[1].

Can anything be done to improve this situation?

Well what if your hospital had a strict policy of admitting when errors and medical malpractice occurred?

Actually – there are a few that do that voluntarily.

MedStar Health – a company operating 10 hospitals in the Baltimore, Washington D.C. area has a stated policy that “if the [need for further] care was preventable, we’re waiving bills…”

Sounds remarkable – right?

Sadly few hospital systems in the U.S. operate in such a transparent fashion. Sadder still is the cost to patients.   What happens to those people?

The fact is that of the many tens of thousands injured by medical mistakes each year – only a tiny percentage file a lawsuit to recover their losses.   For the vast majority – the cost of medical and rehab costs for the mistakes of their physicians and hospitals falls to them, the injured – often with catastrophic financial consequences.

“You would expect if [health-care providers] make the mistake, they would make you whole,” said Leah Binder, president of the Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit organization that grades hospitals on their record of preventing errors, injuries, accidents and infections. “But that is not what happens. In health care, you pay and you pay and you pay.”

Well there is a tiny glimmer of hope… some insurers are requiring that hospitals handle mistakes by providing all follow-up care for free. The industry group America’s Health Insurance Plans is one such group pushing for this reform.

Interestingly – research indicates that when healthcare providers are transparent about mistakes – patients are much less likely to sue… and that’s good for everyone.

If you or a loved one is ever the victim of a surgical error, a defective drug, the improper prescription of a drug therapy, over-exposure to medical radiation, a hospital acquired infection, a fall while in the hospital, a preventable blood clot, a misdiagnosis, or any form of medical malpractice, call a qualified Connecticut medical malpractice lawyer. A knowledgeable malpractice attorney can help to ensure that your rights are protected.

RisCassi & Davis has handled hundreds of medical malpractice cases over our 60 years serving the people of Connecticut.

What’s more, our Connecticut medical malpractice lawyers have received local and national recognition for our handling of these cases.

We have a great team of legal experts dedicated to medical malpractice in Connecticut.   Please contact us if we can help you. The consultation is free and there is no obligation of any kind.

 

[1] MEDICAL MALPRACTICE – BY THE NUMBERS, CENTER FOR JUSTICE & DEMOCRACY. 2015

Bad Docs and the Harm They Cause


As in any profession – there are all-stars and there are those not so good (and those just plain bad).

That is as true in medicine as in any other field.

Did you know that according to recent research – 6% of all physicians are responsible for 58% of all medical malpractice payments?

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine estimated that 44,000 patients were killed annually (and many more injured) by medical errors? Just 12 years later – the journal HealthAffairs recalculated the data and concluded the number was closer to 450,000 per year. They also estimated that many hundreds of thousands more are injured each year by medical malpractice.

Continue reading “Bad Docs and the Harm They Cause” »

What’s the Annual Death Rate from Medical Errors?

The question in our headline is actually one that was recently asked of consumers by researchers here in the U.S.

The most common answer they got… 5,000 a year.

That’s not even close.

The actual number may be as high as 800,000 deaths per year from medical malpractice and drug related injuries – just in the U.S.

What’s more, the number of those suffering harm short of death may number in the millions per year when one includes medical malpractice (including surgical errors) and death from drug side effects.   The Institute for Healthcare Improvement estimates the rate of medical harm to be over 40,000 each and EVERY day.

Continue reading “What’s the Annual Death Rate from Medical Errors?” »

What Medical Errors Are a Concern for 2015?

Sometimes it helps to know what experts inside an industry are thinking to know what dangers you should be on alert for…

So we’ve done some homework for you to see what safety concerns doctors have for 2015.  Here is their list:

Continue reading “What Medical Errors Are a Concern for 2015?” »

There Are Over 40,000 Medical Errors A Day In America

 

Yup.  You read that headline correctly.  More than forty thousand a day – according to the 2011 Health Grades Hospital Quality in America Study.

What is one of the leading cause of harm?

Hospital acquired infections.  What’s worse, increasingly these infections are being caused by antibiotic resistant superbugs.  Brad Spellberg, MD, a LA BioMed infectious disease specialist, recently analyzed reams of clinical data and concluded antibiotic resistance among hospital-acquired infections is “at crisis levels.”

Why the rise in these dangerous superbugs?   Simple – the overuse of antibiotics in clinical care and in agriculture…

Continue reading “There Are Over 40,000 Medical Errors A Day In America” »

Do You Know How Your Hospital Ranks For Safety?

The Leapfrog Group* has just published their spring update onHow_does_your_hospital_rank_for_safety? hospital safety, giving U.S. hospitals a Hospital Safety Score.  It is an eye opener for consumers in Connecticut and around the country.  “The Hospital Safety Score is an A, B, C, D, or F letter grade reflecting how safe hospitals are for patients…. The Score uses among many sources, the national performance measures from the Leapfrog Hospital Survey as well as those from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  From this data they produce a single score representing a hospital’s overall performance in keeping patients safe from preventable harm and medical errors.”

Continue reading “Do You Know How Your Hospital Ranks For Safety?” »

Do Hospitals Profit From Their Medical Malpractice Mistakes?

It appears that there may be more profit for hospitals when they make mistakes than when theyDo_hospitals_benefit_from_medical_malpractice_mistakes? perform error free – this according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

How is this possible you ask?  Well… according to the study authors, complications and errors lead to longer hospital stays and extra care which in turn leads to more expensive treatment.  Sadly effective methods exist for reducing error rates dramatically but hospitals have been slow to make the necessary changes.  According to the authors, to do so would lead to lower revenues per patient in many cases.

Continue reading “Do Hospitals Profit From Their Medical Malpractice Mistakes?” »

Are Patient Alarms Responsible for Medical Malpractice Cases?

The Joint Commission, the nation’s largest hospital accreditation Is_your_hospital_doing_everything_it_can_to_prevent_medical_malpractice?organization, has issued a warning to hospitals and the public at large about the dangers of patient monitor alarm fatigue, a syndrome that desensitizes physicians and hospital staffs and can lead to medical malpractice from patient alarms being ignored in critical circumstances.

These alarms are used for a variety of hospital devices, including ventilators, blood pressure monitors and infusion pumps.  In some cases use of these devices has been found to compromise patient safety – as their constant alarm sounds can go unnoticed for a number of reasons including a process called desensitization.

Continue reading “Are Patient Alarms Responsible for Medical Malpractice Cases?” »