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Would public accounting of doctor errors make hospitals safer?

Preventable surgical errors and medical professional negligence cost billions of dollars a year in Medicare and private insurance payments. Medical experts agree that lessening the occurrences of these "never events," as they're called in the field, will not only save lives but lower the cost of health care and insurance.

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine conducted a study that showed that preventable hospital and physician errors occur at least 4,000 times yearly in the U.S. These numbers may be a conservative estimate as many errors go unreported or undetected. Incorrect procedures, such as leaving sponges and surgical instruments inside the body or operating on the wrong body part or patient, result in a patient's death in at least 1 in 15 cases.

A possible solution is that hospitals and medical practices should adopt standard practices of procedures and a public accounting of medical errors. Studies have proven that third-party review of medical charts is effective in finding more than 90 percent of certain triggers to indicate procedures that went wrong. The opinion suggests that standardizing data collection and accurately reporting mistakes can result in far fewer medical errors.

With health care costs rising as a result of medical malpractice lawsuits, any procedures that would result in fewer instances of medical malpractice would be beneficial to consumers. When a patient goes in for a surgical procedure, he or she wants to be assured that the procedure will be safe and result in a full recovery. If an instance of doctor or hospital negligence arises and results in injury or a worsened medical condition, patients have the right to compensation.

Source: Bloomberg News, "Let's make doctor errors public," Feb. 4, 2013

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