Preventable Medical Errors: What Do They Cost?

There are certain types of medical malpractice that are considered to be so egregious that they should never happen. In fact, Medicare calls these preventable errors “Never Events,” and they include such serious mistakes as wrong site surgery, patient falls, and discharging an infant to the wrong person, among other things. Since 2007, Medicare has refused to reimburse health care providers who commit one of these mistakes.

State-level, needs-based programs will be following Medicare’s lead. As of July 1, 2011, Medicaid will no longer pay for “Never Events.” The goal of the new rule is to discourage hospitals and doctors from making preventable errors. And while this financial disincentive will hopefully lead to increased patient safety, the alarming human toll of medical malpractice should also be a motivating factor.

According to the Oregon Patient Safety Commission, 34 patients died last year as a result of preventable medical errors. That number represents 25% of the 136 total reported preventable errors. The State of Michigan, recognizing the serious harm caused by “Never Events,” recently launched a new website dedicated to patient safety and reporting health care provider errors.

Medical malpractice comes with an enormous monetary and physical cost. Simple, careless errors that result in catastrophic injuries to innocent patients should be stopped.

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