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Far more medical errors occur than patients ever report, according to writer Marshall Allen on Reasons for not reporting them vary. Some patients may be physically unable to speak out or may be afraid to file a complaint. Patients also may not know how or where to report that they’ve been harmed and may not even realize they’ve suffered a medical error until their condition worsens.

This non-reporting of harm is compounded by the lack of a central reporting system. Allen’s article notes that patients may report medical errors at:

  • the state medical licensing board (for Ohio’s medical licensing board, click here);
  • the Joint Commission, a not-for-profit organization that works to improve health care; or
  • or the Medicare Quality Improvement Program.

But if patients are unfamiliar with these places or these organizations are inaccessible to patients, it makes it much harder to prevent future medical errors. When patients don’t complain, their incident is never investigated, and medical providers never learn what needs to be fixed. This results in a good chance that the same thing will happen again.

Many hospitals are required to file reports when an incident of patient harm takes place, but a July 2012 Office of the Inspector General report stated that hospitals only reported one percent of adverse events such as pulmonary embolism, infections, or severe bleeding.

Though there’s a lot of work to be done, efforts are being made to expose incidents of patient harm so that caregivers can be made aware of and be held accountable for the problems going on within their own walls. The federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is in the process of developing a standardized program for patients to report incidents of harm they have experienced during their medical care. The Agency welcoming comments from the public regarding:

  • the best way to gather information via phone and internet;
  • a standardized format to document each case, and
  • with patient permission, the ability to follow up with the medical providers involved.

For more information, click here.

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