Medical Error Rates Remain Underreported

In a stunning report released by "Health Affairs," a health policy journal, roughly one-third of the people who go into the hospital for one condition end up coming down with another one while there, known as an "adverse event." Adverse events include such things as blood infections or complications from medication.

The study also found that an alarming number of hospitals are failing to report their own mistakes, with only 10 percent of hospital mistakes being reported.

The study used a method called the "Global Trigger Tool." Looking at the medical records of nearly 800 patients at three teaching hospitals, the researchers found that 354 had been the victims of medical errors, infections, or received an injury while in the hospital. These results were 10 times higher than the results from an older voluntary method using the hospitals' administrative records.

The director of Consumer Reports' Health Ratings Center blames the slow rate of health care progress on the fact that hospitals are against publicly revealing accurate statistics about their mistakes, and that doctors and nurses cannot be counted on to admit to making errors.

If you have been the victim of a medical error, it is important that you obtain your medical records, take notes on everything that occurred - including who examined you, what you were told, all procedures performed and medications prescribed - and report the incident and your ill effects to a supervisor of the treating physician, a patient advocate, the hospital, and to your state or local health department. You will need to have a record of the events if legal action becomes necessary.

If you have been hurt as a result of a medical error, is it important that you seek the advice and assistance of a qualified medical malpractice attorney, who can protect your rights and work to help you get the compensation you deserve.