Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Many surgical errors continue to be unreported

A leader of a Johns Hopkins study has suggested that the surgical error problem will not be corrected until it is accurately measured. However, to measure such a phenomenon would require publication of these surgical mistakes.

What he suggests is for third-party reviews of medical charts to discover what went wrong when reported surgical errors will made. Though it is thought that such an approach may be more time consuming, improved tools used have done a far greater job in having these errors reported.

Though some states like Pennsylvania require a reporting of mistakes, this is no national reporting system in place. Also, it is felt that a hospital's own voluntary reporting of errors will likely leave many errors completely unreported. It is felt that with better public accounting, there will be greater familiarity with recurring errors and give hospitals a greater opportunity for preventing these types of errors from reoccurring.

We've mentioned before how instruments and sponges are left in patients at a rate of 4,000 times per year across the United States, and how such errors cost Medicare close to $17.1 billion. This figure is likely low because it is based on only those errors that are actually reported, and does not take into account other expenses besides Medicare as well. In any case, many studies have demonstrated that checklists and other operating room strategies can vastly reduce the number of these types of errors from occurring.

Medical malpractice lawsuits that go all the way to trial are a part of the public record that will allow for the public to know what is occurring during surgery. The attorneys that represent the injured clients can also demonstrate through testimony and evidence produced how these errors could have been prevented.

Source: Star Tribune, "Let's make doctor errors public," Feb. 4, 2013

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