OIG: While adverse events are common, records of them aren’t

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

To draw attention to its ongoing monitoring of the incidence of adverse events in US hospitals and the accurate reporting thereof, the HHS Office of Inspector General is highlighting a roundup of reports on the subject.

If you get a chance to read it, you’ll probably see why I decided to distill it to a bulleted list of somewhat remarkable numbers.

Here goes:

  • In a one-month period, 27 percent of Medicare recipients experienced “care-related harm.”
  • In that month, these events cost Medicare an estimated $324 million.
  • Half of them were adverse events, half were “temporary” events such as allergic reactions.
  • 44 percent of the adverse events were deemed “preventable.”
  • “Hospital staff did not report 86 percent of events to incident reporting systems.”
  • That is partly because only 12 percent of incidents of care-related harm met requirements for being reported in the state in which they occurred.
  • “Many of the events not reported as required involved serious harm, including six patient deaths.”

For those looking to dig deeper and better understand the adverse events and how they’re reported, the OIG refers to a number of relevant reports. Journalists will be particularly interested in reports explaining how reporting requirements have failed, as it helps explain the limitations of currently available data sets.

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