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Certain kinds of hospital mistakes no longer reported publicly

An article published on August 6 in USA Today highlighted steps taken by the federal government to restrict public access to information on eight kinds of hospital mistakes, referred to as 'hospital acquired conditions" (HACs) by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Leaving foreign objects in patients during surgery and air embolisms were among those eight HACs no longer being reported publicly. Until August 2014, information on those conditions was still available via a public spreadsheet offered by CMS, but that data can no longer be accessed. CMS is now reporting occurrence rates for only 13 HACs.

CMS said the eight HACs that are no longer reported rarely happen, which makes them more difficult to track, and should never occur in hospitals. However, the article noted that authorities on patient safety believe that that circumstance makes such events more important to report. Under the Affordable Care Act, hospitals in the quartile featuring the highest rates of the 13 remaining HACs are penalized with a one percent reduction in Medicare reimbursement.

Some patient-safety advocates say that public reporting of hospital errors is extremely important to consumers. They believe such reports allow patients to make informed decisions about how hospitals' previous mistakes reflect their current levels of care. The move is viewed by some as an affront to transparency.

When medical errors occur in hospitals, patients have the right to file medical malpractice lawsuits against doctors or hospitals involved with their care. A successful lawsuit of that kind could yield a plaintiff damages for the harm caused by either or both of those entities.

Source: USA Today , "Feds stop public disclosure of many serious hospital errors", Jayne O'Donnell, August 06, 2014

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