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Because so many medical errors go unreported, the Obama Administration is developing a program for patients to report the harm they may have experienced while in the hospital or with medical caregivers, according to a New York Times article.

Be it improper medication or doses, surgical error, misdiagnosis, or other medical oversight, thousands of hospital errors and cases of physician negligence go unreported each year. Federal officials believe patients have a wealth of information that could be used to help improve the care given by medical providers.

The program asks patients to fill out a questionnaire that requests a description of what went wrong, the medical provider’s name, and permission to share responses with medical providers so that future mistakes can be avoided. These questionnaires would be available in hospitals and doctors’ offices, and information describing the program would be available through pharmacies and insurance companies or mailed directly to patients. The reporting system could be accessed via a website or through a telephone interview. Reporting would still be voluntary and confidential, unless, as noted above, patients give permission for their experience to be shared with medical providers.

Dr. Kevin J. Bozic, chairman of the Council on Research and Quality at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, said it was also important that the information patients provide in the reports be verified in their medical records, because patients could think they were victims of nursing error or medical harm when they were not. Though patients’ reports could be helpful because they and their family members have more opportunity to see things that busy caregivers may miss, patients also know less of what to expect. Patients offering to report a medical error could mischaracterize a situation that a doctor would recognize as perfectly normal.

Many hospitals and medical caregivers welcome the program. Although the information contained in reports could cause liability issues or result in loss of funding, caregivers want to know the kinds of mistakes taking place so that they are better able to correct them and take care of patients in the future.

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