Since 2006, licensed medical facilities in Indiana have been required to report some of their medical errors to state officials with the Indiana State Department of Health. The 2012 report has just been issued, allowing a closer look at a few of the causes of medical mistakes across Indiana.
Indiana Medical Errors in 2012
There were a total of 100 “reportable medical errors” in 2012, with 88 of those occurring at hospitals. The remainder occurred at ambulatory surgery centers. Nine of the reportable errors occurred at Indiana University Health, which includes Indiana University Hospital, Methodist Hospital of Indianapolis and Riley Hospital for Children.
Unfortunately, based on our years of experience as medical malpractice attorneys, the medical errors listed in the annual report are just the tip of the iceberg. There were far more than 100 medical errors in Indiana hospitals in 2012. So what explains these numbers? The 2012 report includes only 28 types of “reportable events.” As a result, there are many types of medical mistakes that Indiana hospitals are not required to report. In addition, doctors and hospitals simply fail to report or inform patients of some serious medical errors.
The report listed 19 reports of foreign objects retained in patients after surgery. This could be a surgical tool or cotton gauze surgical sponge left behind and not discovered until long after the patient has left the hospital. This can lead to a fatal incident.
Fifteen incidents of surgery performed on the wrong body part were reported in 2012. Also reported were two surgeries on the wrong patient, 5 instances of the wrong surgery being performed and 14 falls resulting in death or serious injury.
Most Common Reported Medical Errors
In 2012, the most commonly reported medical error was stage three and four pressure sores acquired after hospital admission. Known as “bed sores”, these are preventable wounds caused by unrelieved pressure on the body. When hospital residents are unable to move, hospital staff must reposition them regularly to prevent these painful and potentially deadly sores. Thirty of these incidents were reported in 2012.
Indiana’s system of reporting was started to increase accountability by medical providers. Health care providers are now required to report certain types of medical errors and causes, which are then released to the public on an annual basis.
The number of deaths associated with contaminated drugs was elevated in 2012 due to the meningitis outbreak that occurred because of a contamination at a compounding facility. That outbreak affected people from across the country.
In all, there are 28 medical events that are considered “reportable”. These include surgery on the wrong body part, retention of a foreign object in a patient’s body after surgery, wrong surgery, contaminated drug exposure that causes death or serious disability, infant discharge to the wrong person, and medication errors resulting in death or serious disability.
The goal of the report is to increase public knowledge of the problem of medical errors and collect data to determine if there are areas where mistakes can be reduced and cut healthcare costs through the elimination of errors. But the report is just a start. Medical errors are often the result of systemic failures or flawed processes rather than a mistake by a single individual. It often takes an experienced medical malpractice attorney to bring flawed processes and systemic issues to light through thorough investigation of a medical error and filing of a lawsuit.