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Doctors and others ask for harm reports

A group of doctors, professors and other healthcare advocates are calling for tracking and adequate reporting of preventable harms and deaths of patients in hospitals in Arizona and across the United States. According to a professor of public health at Harvard, patient safety has not improved since an Institute of Medicine report called for reforms to prevent patient deaths due to medical error. That report was issued 15 years ago. Many of the experts who have testified before congress have said that part of the problem is the fact that medical providers fail to do an adequate job of tracking harm.

Although preventable medical harm done to patients might not be widely publicized, it is reportedly the third-leading cause of fatality in the United States. One expert suggested creating a system to measure harms to patients so that hospitals and other healthcare providers can remain aware and measure progress in terms of preventing harm.

Also included in the discussion of the need to prevent medical harms is the issue of missed diagnoses, which can account for a staggering number of deaths each year. A recent study used to bolster the testimony estimated that preventable harm contributes to up to 400,000 annual deaths. The study was headed by a scientist whose son allegedly died as a result of several doctor errors.

In cases where a patient is killed or severely harmed due to medical error, the consequences can be devastating for the person and his or her family. If the person is still alive but in intensive care, he or she may have trouble paying medical bills because illness and injury prevents normal work activities. An attorney may be able to help the person or his or her family pursue a settlement to help offset the cost of medical bills.

Source: NPR, "Health Safety Experts Call For Public Reporting Of Medical Harms", Melissa Breyer, July 18, 2014

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