Back in 2014, the Baltimore Sun ran an article about the underreporting of adverse events in Maryland hospitals. At the time, there seemed to be no way of knowing whether or not hospitals in our state were accurately reporting those numbers. There still isn’t. Maryland hospitals are not required to report safety data, so there is no real way to track which adverse events were the result of negligence.
Proper accounting and reporting of adverse events (undesirable experiences related to medical care) and never events (preventable medical errors that never should have occurred) is critical to healthcare consumers. The Food & Drug Administration divides adverse events into six categories, and believes that healthcare providers should report them to the FDA. Those categories of patient outcomes are:
- Hospitalization (initial or prolonged)
- Disability or Permanent Damage
- Congenital Anomaly/Birth Defect
- Required Intervention to Prevent Permanent Impairment or Damage (Devices)
- Other Serious (Important Medical Events)
The FDA wants hospitals and healthcare providers to report these patient outcomes when it is believed that the use of, or exposure to, a medical product may have been the cause. Because Maryland hospitals are not required to report any of this information, there is no clear way to find out if (for example) a child’s birth injury was the result of a defect outside of the doctor’s control, or if it was the result of an act of negligence, which in turn led to the adverse event.
Choosing the right healthcare provider
In order to make the best choice of hospital for your needs, you may have to rely on outside services. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) offers Hospital Compare, where you can choose up to three hospitals at a time from its list and compare them side by side. However, even this government system does not give you the full picture. For example: we chose to compare Atlantic General Hospital, Carroll Hospital Center and Johns Hopkins Hospital. In the category of “Readmissions and Death,” we found that the “Death rate for heart attack patients [was] no different than the National Rate” of 14.2% – but does that mean that, coincidentally, all three hospitals have exactly a 14.2% rate of deaths, or are they simply “close enough”? Johns Hopkins allegedly score better than the national rate when it comes to patients that die of heart failure, but by how much? Is it 1% better? 10% better? That information is not available.
We talk about accountability and transparency, and yet we cannot access even simple information about the hospitals closest to us. Until Maryland hospitals start disclosing the real numbers of adverse and never events, we will simply have to hope for the best. And when it comes to our health, hoping for the best simply isn’t good enough.
Plaxen & Adler, P.A. provides comprehensive medical malpractice representation for people throughout Maryland. If you believe you or your loved one was injured because of medical negligence, please contact us to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Maryland medical malpractice attorney.