Patients may soon report medical mistakes to new database


If a patient experiences a medical mistake by a healthcare provider they may soon have the opportunity to report that error to a federal database. Since currently so many medical errors go unreported, the government hopes the additional information gathered from patients will help prevent errors and improve health care systems.

“Patient reports could complement and enhance reports from providers and thus produce a more complete and accurate understanding of the prevalence and characteristics [of medical mistakes],”explained the director of Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a federal agency.

Questionnaires would be available at hospitals and clinics, and fliers would be distributed by pharmacies.

Examples of medical errors the program hopes patients will provide information on are:

  • Surgical errors
  • Medication errors
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Wrong tests or procedures
  • Radiation overdoses

These mistakes may be caused by doctors, nurses or other medical providers. In addition to errors, the government is also seeking information on near misses and unsafe practices. Patients who choose to make reports would then be given the opportunity to allow the information to be shared with the providers involved, so future mistakes could be avoided.

Some doctors worry that patients may misinterpret when a mistake occurs due to a lack of medical knowledge. Consumer groups, however, are behind the program and feel it has the potential to gather a wealth of information useful in improving patient safety.

Although the project has yet to be approved by the White House, it has the potential to improve patient safety and prevent some of the tens of thousands of injuries and fatalities caused by medical mistakes each year.

Source: The New York Times, “New System for Patients to Report Medical Mistakes,” Robert Pear, September 22, 2012

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