U.S. government study shows that hospitals cover up when they injure patients


Read these three little-known ways that you can increase your odds for a safe hospitalization

January 18, 2012

A study released in January 2012 once again highlights the risks to patients of going to hospitals and getting injured by medical malpractice.

In particular, hospitals get a failing grade when it comes to reporting incidents that are harmful to patients. When they cover up instead of report, doctors, nurses and hospital administrators are less likely to learn from their mistakes and make changes for the good so that future patients will not be harmed.

In a study done by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, 27 percent of the patients went into the hospital for one thing, but doctors or nurses injured them in an additional way that either prolonged their hospitalization or required them to have additional treatment.

More than one in four people were given additional injuries just by going to the hospital. Some people received even more than one additional injury. One elderly patient in the study had six different incidents where she was injured by doctors or nurses. The additional injuries include things like as infections, surgical complications, and medication errors.

According to the Office of the Inspector General study, a whopping 86 percent of these new injuries were not reported by doctors, nurses or hospitals to the appropriate reporting systems. Unfortunately, this study does not surprise me. In my practice, I see the same hospitals repeat the same errors.

Some hospitals, doctors and nurses just do not seem to be willing to admit or learn from their mistakes. To increase the likelihood of a safe hospital experience, here are some things that you can do if you or a loved one has to be hospitalized:

Be knowledgeable. Read up on causes, symptoms and common side effects of the condition or treatment.

Be watchful. Anyone who is hospitalized should have an assertive family member or friend stay with them 24 hours a day to make sure that basic care is being provided. Keep a journal and make notes of what is happening with your loved one and with the care that is being provided. You can share this information with the next family member or friend who is keeping watch to make sure there is continuity of care.

Be the squeaky wheel. If your loved one (the patient) starts acting in a way that is different or unusual, is important to tell the nurse and make sure the information gets communicated to the doctor. This could be an early sign of a serious problem. If there is an order for lab work or a CT or MRI, politely ask when it will get done and follow up with questions on the results. These things frequently get lost in the cracks until it is too late.

If you or a loved one has been injured by medical malpractice, contact Painter Law Firm at 281-580-8800, for a free evaluation of your case.

Additional Resources

Office of the Inspector General Report OEI-06-09-00091 (January 2012)

Robert Painter

Robert Painter is a medical malpractice lawyer at Painter Law Firm PLLC.


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