Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys have previously argued that hospitals must begin to “own up” to their medical mistakes – and that doing so actually decreases medical malpractice exposures. Now, state legislatures have begun to take notice, and are moving towards requiring public acknowledgment and reporting of medical errors.
This trend appears to have arisen from an investigation by the Las Vegas Sun. The newspaper looked at so-called “Sentinel” events, incidents at a hospital that cause injury or harm to patients, or the risk of injury or harm to patients. These events had previously been reported and available to the public only as a state-wide figure, leaving patients completely unable to compare the history and record of various hospitals, and leaving the hospitals with no public accountability for preventable injuries and infections.
The Sun, however, used 2008 and 2009 hospital billing records to identify 969 such incidents in the Las Vegas area alone, as part of a total of 1,363 incidents of preventable harm. Importantly, the newspaper was thus able to identify which hospitals were the source of these events. During the same period, only 402 events were reported to state regulators – but because the figure has only been reported as a statewide total, there is no reasonable way for the paper to determine which hospitals have been violating their reporting duties. Nevada state legislators have, however, launched an investigation.
Although there is every reason to believe that the problem of under-reporting is not confined to Las Vegas, naturally the Nevada Legislature was the first state to act on the Sun’s findings. Last month, the Nevada legislature’s Committee on Health Care approved two draft bills aimed at requiring hospitals themselves to disclose what the press unearthed. The new laws would require hospitals to report for public disclosure – by location – preventable hospital injuries and infections. This legislation builds on a 2009 federal law on infection reporting which permitted, but did not require, states to report infection data by facility to the National Healthcare Safety Network (a branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
But Nevada is not alone in its efforts. The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals is now moving to require similar disclosures of Sentinel events, called “never events” under Iowa law.
What we have not yet seen, however, is any similar action in Illinois. Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys urge the Illinois legislature to require similar disclosures. Illinois patients and consumers, like those in Nevada and Iowa, deserve the opportunity to make informed decisions between available hospitals, and deserve the improved care that increased scrutiny will bring. Requiring the public reporting and disclosure of incidents of preventable injury and infection at hospitals in our state can only increase the level of care provided to Illinois’ citizens, and decrease the need for medical malpractice actions to compensate the injured.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.