Hospital Errors Rise in California – Medicare Refuses to Pay for Avoidable Mistakes

Hospital Errors Rise in California – Medicare Refuses to Pay for Avoidable Mistakes

The number of reported hospital errors increased across California during the last year, according to data from the state Department of Public Health.

While a 2006 state law requires officials to publicly report hospital errors, California’s DPH has not yet reported the information to the state Legislature.

California hospitals reported 1,538 serious and preventable events for fiscal year 2008-2009, up from last year’s reported 1,224 errors. About 90% of the reported errors are currently under investigation, according to a recent article from the Sacramento Business Journal, 1/8.

Health insurers and hospitals are working to reduce the incidence of preventable medical errors through new policies and procedures. Medicare has also chosen not to pay for preventable medical errors, and many major health insurance companies are following suit.

In addition, hospitals are enacting new safety protocols in an effort to prevent such events. One system gaining more attention from lawmakers stems from a unique and successful strategy used in Pittsburgh to improve the quality, safety, efficiency and cost of hospitals in the area. The system took its ideas from one of the most efficient companies, Toyota. While this approach, modeling after an industry, may seem a bit strange and impersonal, hospital after hospital in the Pittsburgh area saw and sustained dramatic improvements. This approach is now being considered for other hospitals throughout the country. To learn more, see the book, The Pittsburgh Way to Efficient Health Care.

Here’s a chart that outlines the types and numbers of medical errors in California last year.

Karen Fletcher
Our blogger Karen J. Fletcher is CHA's publications consultant. She provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare, health disparities and other health care issues. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she serves in health advocacy as a trainer and consultant. See her current articles.