“Mistakes in hospitals are estimated to cause at least 250,0000 unnecessary patient deaths annually in the U.S., making it the fourth leading cause of medical fatalities after cancer, heart disease, and Covid-19,” according to a recent Wall Street Journal report. This does not include the thousands of “near misses” that go unreported.
“When medical errors are reported, it’s usually well after the fact, and information usually stays within the organization,” says Dr. Charles Pilcher, a retired emergency room physician.
Doctors and hospitals are reluctant to reveal their errors and missteps, fearful that transparency will lead to potential malpractice suits and cuts in government funding, plus put reputations at risk.
An official policy is currently being developed that would require doctors to become more open to scrutiny for their errors, as airline pilots have done for years without fear of punishment. As a result, airlines have built a phenomenal safety record.
“At the heart of the idea is prodding doctors and hospitals to share more digital data and wholeheartedly embrace self-reporting of their potentially deadly ‘near misses.’” Policy and enforcement would be carried out by a proposed National Patient Safety Board, currently being created.
Supporters, however, say this time it will be different. “Challenges posed by the Covid pandemic have opened the door to innovation in healthcare, and the latest effort has found a receptive audience among some lawmakers and numerous healthcare providers.”