Medicare Beneficiaries: Adverse Events in Hospitals

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By Mary Jane Stern

Sometimes I feel like I am one of the biggest complainers about the quality of care from either doctors or hospitals about my husband’s medical condition.  But perhaps I am not totally wrong.

I was shocked and alarmed to read in our local paper today about a study of Medicare patients and how they have been harmed while in the hospital and the study links these errors to 15,000 deaths per month.

The study focused on a representative sample of 780 Medicare random billings of patients discharged from the hospitals in October 2008.  The report cited estimated 13.5 percent of hospitalized Medicare beneficiaries experienced adverse events during their hospital stays:

  • Excessive bleeding from blood-thinning drugs.
  • Inadequate insulin management
  • Respiratory failure resulting from over sedation

Other problems were only temporary because they were discovered and appropriate action was taken to reverse the error.  The most common error was medication errors.

According to the report, there were 1 million Medicare beneficiaries discharged from the hospital during October 2008 and 1 in 7 were harmed as a result of medical care received during their stay at a hospital.

The most preventable errors involved hospital acquired infections.

Extremely alarming!

The report is recommending CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) increase penalties to hospitals providing substandard care.

It has to be more than just a penalty.  I witnessed a hospital worker just “signing” off on a checklist and stating that certain room requirements per hospital procedure had been taken care of.  What was interesting is that is that it was signed off for 3 PM and 7 PM at 5 PM that day.

It’s has to start with training and education for all hospital employees.

Next, whether you are enrolled in Medicare or private insurance you need to have someone to advocate for you.  Don’t assume anything.  Question everything.

If you would like to read the report  Adverse Events In Hospitals: National Incidence Among Medicare Beneficiaries, here’s the link: http://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-06-09-00090.pdf

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