Virginia: Medical Malpractice – a Lawyer’s Report

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In January, 2012, the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”) issued a 42-page report titled Hospital Incident Reporting Systems Do Not Capture Most Patient Harm, OEI-06—09-00091. As a corollary, incidents of medical malpractice may go underreported.

“Hospital staff did not report 86 percent of [adverse] events to incident reporting systems,” and surveyed hospital “administrators acknowledged that incident reporting systems provide incomplete information about how often [adverse] events occur,” were Findings of the report’s Executive Summary. Id. at ii (bolding in original). That means surveyed hospitals reported less than 1 of 7 incidents which potentially could result in a medical malpractice claim.

Another of the disturbing Findings by the DHHS Inspector General is that surveyed hospitals “made few changes to policy or practices as a result of reported [adverse] events.” Id. Consequently, the chances of future incidents of medical malpractice may be increased by such lack of proactive invention.

Headlining the DHHS Inspector General’s study on January 6, 2012, The New York Times reported that adverse events not reported by surveyed hospitals comprised “some of the most serious problems, including some that caused patients to die”. This January 2012 report is the most recent in a “series of Office of Inspector General (OIG) reports about adverse and temporary harm events in hospitals,” including Adverse Events in Hospitals: National Incidence Among Medical Beneficiaries, OEI-06-09-00090 (November 2010) and Adverse Events in Hospitals: Methods for Identifying Events, OEI-06-08-00221 (March 2010). Id. at 1.