Posted by: Salvatore J. Zambri, founding member and partner
Until recently, data from 1984 has been used to estimate the number of deaths caused by hospital error – 98,000. A recent report from the Journal of Patient Safety indicates that number was a very low estimate. Updated data reveals that around 440,000 deaths are caused by preventable hospital error. In addition, 10 to 20 times more patients experience serious harm from hospital mistakes.
Unfortunately for consumers, information for patients is limited. Consumer Reports rates hospitals on safety and quality of care. The Leapfrog Group (representing employer purchasers of health care) rates hospitals on safety measures. Medicare claims include re-admission within 30 days after discharge statistics. U.S. News’ Best Hospital Rankings helps patients who have difficult health problems select hospitals. Other groups create their rankings based on being allowed to use the hospital logo. According to the National Quality Forum, not enough measurable and consistent information exists in a way that consumers can find it.
“The Journal of Patient Safety study found 210,000 ‘detectable’ deaths per year — the number they eventually fixed on of 440,000 reflected the estimate that half or two-thirds of all such deaths are never counted. ‘That’s a big range,’ said Leah Binder (chief executive of The Leapfrog Group). ‘It sounds so high, but what more frightening is that we still don’t know. Nobody’s counting the bodies.’ ”
Patients have a right to know about the safety standards and quality of care for hospitals. The needed information is frequently unavailable, inconsistent, or not transparent enough to understand.
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About the author:
Mr. Zambri is a board-certified civil trial attorney by the National Board of Trial Advocates and a Past-President of the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. The association recently named him “Trial Lawyer of the Year” (2011). He has been rated by Washingtonian magazine as a “Big Gun” and among the “top 100” lawyers (out of more than 80,000 attorneys) in the entire metropolitan area. The magazine also describes him as “one of Washington’s best–most honest and effective lawyers” who specializes in personal injury matters, including automobile accident claims, premises liability, product liability, medical malpractice, and work-accident claims. He has successfully litigated multiple cases against truck and bus companies, the Washington Metropolitan Area transit Authority, and other automobile owners. His law firm, in fact, has obtained the largest settlement ever in a personal injury case involving WMATA. Mr. Zambri has also been acknowledged as one of “The Best Lawyers in America” by Best Lawyers (2014 edition) and has been repeatedly named a “Super Lawyer” by Super Lawyer magazine (March/April 2013)– national publications that honor the top lawyers in America.