Since 2007, California has had a system penalizing and fining hospitals for preventable medical errors. Since the program’s inception, California has issued $17 million in fines – up to $125,000 per preventable mistake. The state has issued 354 administrative penalties to 192 of the state’s 495 hospitals. But has this program succeeded in reducing errors? According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the answer is no.
The journalists analyzed a report produced by the California Data Fellowship, a program of the Center for Health Journalism at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and found that the medical error rates are higher than they were when the program began in 2007. Even after a significant improvement in medical error rates between 2014 and 2015, the number of errors is still greater than in 2007.
The California program tracks 27 significant patient harms, ranging from operating on the wrong part of the body to sexual assault on a patient. According to the report, the most frequent errors were stage 3 or 4 decubitis ulcers acquired after admission, foreign objects left in patients, and surgery on the wrong part of the body. Other common errors included death or serious disability due to medical error, death during or up to 24 hours after surgery, wrong surgical procedure performed on a patient, and deaths associated with falls.