An investigation by the Las Vegas Sun has turned up evidence that far more patients are being injured in hospitals than is currently being reported to federal authorities. An examination of 425,000 billing records from Southern Nevada hospitals during 2008 and 2009 found 3,689 cases that should have been reported to federal authorities by hospital officials, yet only 402 were actually reported.
The investigation found that the number of patients being injured is far greater that the hospitals are willing to admit. Currently, there is no national system to report critical errors made by hospitals, and no federal standards to which health care operators are accountable.
A nationwide study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Department reported an even higher rate of harm from a random sample of 780 Medicare patient records. The study showed that 14% of patients suffered harm including medication errors, bedsores, broken bones from falls, and infections while hospitalized in October 2008. Based on sample findings, officials estimated that 134,000 Medicare patients were harmed by hospitals in a single month.
The study also reported that a like number of patients was subject to errors and suffered lesser injury, although their long-term health was not affected. In about 1.5 percent of cases, hospital errors led to patient death.
The federal study concluded that about 44 percent of the hospital injuries were preventable, and that issues that contributed to patient harm included medical errors, substandard care and lack of proper monitoring and assessment.
The Office of the Inspector General, who conducted the study, determined that the cost to the Medicare system was $4.4 billion in 2009, a figure that does not include the cost of follow-up care.