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

Pennsylvania patient safety: Errors are up; data is confusing

According to patient safety advocates, the numbers and types of medical mistakes in hospitals aren't getting enough public exposure. Even when data is available, information may be extremely selective, based on inconsistent ratings methods or skewed by the underlying influence of lobbyists.

Consumers alter purchasing decisions when a product defect or recall makes the news. Hospital errors have been compiled and reported by the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority since 2004, an elaborate state system to make health care consumers and providers aware of unsafe medical practices. The problem may be that Pittsburgh residents are unaware the state-run safety organization exists.

Hospitals and government agencies started to tally surgical errors and other mistakes at medical facilities around the turn of the century. Hospital ratings began to crop up online but measurements used to grade facilities were not all the same, which increased consumer confusion and decreased credibility. A hospital may have a stellar grade on one website and a pitiful score on another.

Some websites offer limited, incomplete or out-of-date assessments of errors in patient care. There's a lot of data about the success or failure of hospital processes but little about important patient outcomes. The people who decide what information to share with the public may include powerful lobbyists, with motives to block data that damages corporate reputations.

The need for reliable, unbiased medical care information may never be greater than it is right now. A recent Journal of Patient Safety report stated hospital errors were responsible for as many as 440,000 deaths annually, making hospital visits more dangerous than getting behind the wheel of a car and slightly less fatal than cancer or heart disease.

Victims of medical provider negligence can turn to civil courts for compensation. In most circumstances, there are no damage award caps for Pennsylvania plaintiffs who suffer losses due to malpractice injuries or wrongful deaths.

Source:, "To Make Hospitals Less Deadly, a Dose of Data" Tina Rosenberg, Dec. 04, 2013

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Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.
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Pittsburgh, PA 15222

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