CMS’s Renewed Public Reporting of Hospital-Acquired Conditions Falls Short

It was reported last week in USA Today that the Center’s for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will be making information available to the public on hospital acquired conditions.  This seems like a good step forward but it actually is a step back and by no means enough to protect patients and families.

Short List of Conditions to be Publicly Reported

Patients should have a right to know their surgeon’s history of medical negligence, especially a history of “never events”. Unfortunately, this information is not easy to come by.
Patients should have a right to know their of their medical providers’ history of medical negligence, especially “never events”.

It should be noted that the new reporting requirements require reporting of only 8 hospital-acquired conditions from the CMS’ list of treatment complications, which will no longer be paid by CMS under the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. Though CMS is to be commended for this first step, it is by no means enough.

Only 8 conditions must be reported according to he article.  The CMS’ list includes 14 conditions with numerous subcategories within those conditions.  This is clearly a shortcoming in and of itself.

Most “Never Events” Need Not Be Reported

However, the deficiency is even more problematic when considering the CMS’ list next to the National Quality Forum’s list of serious reportable events (often referred to as never events).  The CMS’ complete list has only 14 conditions.  The CMS’ short list of publicly reportable events contains only 8 conditions.

The NQF’s list stands currently at 29 never events.  This makes the 14 on the CMS’ list that are targeted for non-payment the honor roll of never events.  Moreover, the events to be publicly reported stand in class of their own.

Again, these so-called never events are medical errors that should never happen.  And although they are relatively rare in relation to overall medical care, they occur thousands upon thousands of times per year often with serious, permanent and/or deadly consequences to the patient.

This means that patients and families are getting very little information regarding very serious errors in hospitals in their community.  It seems self-evident that this is the kind of information a patient and their family would like to have access to prior to choosing a medical provider.

Never Event Information Not Available in New Mexico

There is no publicly accessible data on never events for New Mexico patients. 

It is exceedingly difficult to obtain information regarding the quality of healthcare.  There are only a handful of states that require public reporting and the information available is still rather limited.

New Mexico is not among the states that require public reporting. That is zero public accessible data on never events for New Mexico hospitals, doctors or other medical care providers, both public/governmental and private.

New Mexico Bill Introduced to Require Public Reporting in 2013 Died in Session

The Fiscal Impact Report for the bill outlines the problems pretty well.  According to the Report, 80,000 never events occurred between 1990 and 2010.  Keep in mind that these numbers are based upon self-reporting and fairly narrow reporting guidelines.

The Report further states that only 2 of the 29 currently listed NQF never events must be reported in New Mexico.  Those are related to infections and are perhaps more geared toward public health than patient/consumer protection.

A bill was introduced to “consider” reporting of never and making the data available to the public.  Even this modest proposal went nowhere.

In response to the stated problem, HM 103 made the following seemingly reasonable request regarding the reporting of “never events.”:

“House Memorial 103 (HM 103) requests that the Department of Health (DOH) consider requiring New Mexico hospitals to report “never events” to the DOH and making “never event” data available to the public online.”

The bill did not pass. It died in session.  As such, New Mexico patients and families make blind decisions regarding their healthcare providers.

This is unacceptable and reflects no rational public policy. It reflects the not too subtle protection of the medical care industry and their insurers over patients and families.

Getting Answers Requires a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit and Discovery

Getting any answers on past history of medical negligence from a medical provider, including never events, requires a lawsuit.   Ironically, this results from the same folks who perpetuate the myth of an epidemic of frivolous medical malpractice claims.

Unfortunately, the only way a patient or family will get answers on whether or not the medical provider is a past never event offender is to file a lawsuit and conduct discovery against the medical provider and facilities.

Ironic that the same folks that suggest there is an epidemic of frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits also force these lawsuits by blocking the public from important medical treatment quality information.

Deadlines are Running – Do Not Delay

It is important to move quickly in case you or a loved one has suffered serious harm as a result of suspected medical negligence. There are unique requirements and deadlines associated with medical malpractice claims.

Failure to abide by the requirements or meet the deadlines can seriously jeopardize and ever bar your claim.  One critical deadline that is often present in these cases is the Tort Claims Notice requirement that runs in only 90 days on claims against the government (city, county, state medical providers, facilities, clinics…).

The Albuquerque medical malpractice attorneys at Collins & Collins, P.C. offer a free initial case review.

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