Arizona patients and their family members only have limited access to information about inspections at hospitals, especially investigations of medical errors. Private accreditation companies perform inspections at close to 90 percent of U.S. hospitals instead of state or federal government officials. Proposed regulations from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services call for the release of confidential reports prepared by private accreditors.
Federal regulators have expressed their concern about the potential inadequacy of the evaluations performed by private companies. Government agents inspect a portion of hospitals every year that have received accreditation from these service providers. These audits have revealed that private contractors often miss serious operational problems that public inspectors notice easily. In recent years, journalistic investigations have cast doubt upon accreditors, citing one company's seal of approval on hospitals plagued by high death rates due to infections, inadequately trained staff and medical errors.
If the proposed regulations come into effect, members of the public could have access to detailed information about incidents such as wrong-site surgeries, surgeries on the wrong people and patient abuse. Patient safety advocates applaud the move by regulators to bring information relevant to health care quality out of hiding.
When patients or their family members suspect that hospital negligence contributed to substandard care that resulted in harm, answers could be hard to obtain. An attorney who has experience with these types of matters might provide support to a victim who suffered because of delayed assistance, an emergency room error or outright neglect. An attorney could seek the testimony of one or more medical experts in order to establish a failure to exhibit the requisite standard of care on the part of the facility.