Hospitals to be Sanctioned for Serious Medical Errors

Medicare Will Penalize Hospitals with Highest Rates of Patient Injury

When we go to the hospital to seek treatment for an illness or injury, we expect that we will receive proper care. However, medical mistakes and medical negligence can result in serious and even fatal injuries. According to a recent NPR article, Medicare plans to fine more than 750 hospitals nationwide that have “the highest rates of infections and patient injuries.” The penalties are expected to cost hospitals about $330 million over the course of a year.

How will Medicare penalize these hospitals? Beginning this October, about 25 percent of the hospitals with the “worst rates” will begin losing money for Medicare payments. In fact, they will lose “1 percent of every Medicare payment for a year.” Federal officials have targeted 761 hospitals across the country that will be fined for their poor performances. So far, however, the government has not finalized those penalties. Over the next few months, officials will examine the rates of patient infections and injuries over a multi-year period before finalizing the sanctions that will be imposed at each facility. In fact, hospitals with poor performance records could lose more than 5 percent of their payments from Medicare, which is no small matter.

What kinds of patient injuries and infections have led Medicare to penalize certain hospitals? According to the NPR article, hospital-acquired conditions often include:

  • Bloodstream infections from catheters used for antibiotics, chemotherapy, and other treatments or nutrients;
  • Bladder infections resulting from catheters;
  • Bedsores;
  • Hip fractures;
  • Blood clots;
  • Accidental lung punctures;
  • Surgical wound infections; and
  • Infections by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

In assessing penalties, the government wants hospitals to pay more attention to patient safety and to make a substantial effort to eliminate avoidable infections and injuries. As of now, hospital infection and injury rates are too high, and federal officials and patient health advocates want to lower those numbers significantly.

Medical Errors: Facts and Figures

How often do medication errors and medical malpractice occur? For most of us, even a single incident is one too many. The national figures are quite high:

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1 out of every 8 patients suffered a potentially avoidable complication during a hospital stay in 2012.
  • In 2010, the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services predicted that medical malpractice led to about 180,000 fatalities for Medicare patients alone.
  • In 2013, a new study in the Journal of Patient Safety suggested that anywhere between 210,000 and 440,000 people suffer avoidable injuries each year at hospitals that ultimately result in their death.

While it is difficult to predict the actual number of medical errors that result in patient deaths, we do know that hundreds of thousands of patients suffer from preventable infections and injuries. If you or someone you love has suffered an injury due to medical negligence, it is important to discuss your case with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer.

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