Medicare suffers harm in hospital stays despite a decade of intense efforts to reduce provider-caused adverse events. This is according to a report by the HHS Office of Inspector General.
Among the roughly 1 million Medicare patients who were discharged from hospitals in October 2018, a total of 258,323 experienced an adverse or temporary harm event during their stay.
And 12% experienced events that led to longer stays, lifesaving interventions, permanent harm, or death. “This projects to 121,089 Medicare patients having experienced at least one adverse event during the 1-month study period,” the report stated.
Of these adverse events, 45% were said to have been preventable. These events are attributed to inadequate or substandard care, including more aggressive pain management after surgery or scheduling delays.
In one of the many patient stories and case studies included in the report, a patient needed surgery to remove small intestinal tissue. The report states that the providers delayed surgery five days unnecessarily, despite the patient’s continued deterioration. The delay caused a series of problems, including a worsening in the small intestine, infection of the abdomen with pus and septic shock with an accompanying kidney injury.
Ten percent of adverse events contributed to patient deaths, translating to 1.4%, or 14,800 patients, during the 1-month study period.
Leah Binder, president and CEO of the Leapfrog Group, which routinely grades hospitals on various safety measures, called the report’s findings “outrageous. “
“We would not drive a car or stay in a hotel if there was a chance that we might be hurt,” she stated.
The report also showed that 13% of patients experienced temporary harm, which required intervention but did not prolong their hospital stay or require life-sustaining measures, and over 40% were determined to be preventable. The OIG stated that such events could have been more serious and caused even greater harm if providers hadn’t acted quickly.
Common adverse and temporary harm events were those that resulted from medication use. These included delirium, other mental changes; pressure ulcers and injuries; complications of procedures or surgeries like intraoperative hypotension; hospital-acquired infection (HAIs).
The OIG discovered that patient harm events were nearly as common as in 2008 with a comparable sample size. Back then, 27% of the patients sampled experienced a harmful event. The report found that the 2018 sample had a higher prevalence of comorbidities compared to the 2008, with more patients being treated for more complex diagnoses and conditions than ever before. “
Adverse events can lead to higher costs for beneficiaries, who must pay more in co-payments and deductibles due to additional care. The report estima