Errors reduced with disclosure

South Bend Tribune

Data released from the Indiana State Department of Health show that medical errors at hospitals and health care facilities in 2014 reached a new high.

There were 114 of what the agency described as “preventable adverse medical incidents” last year. The incidents include everything from surgeries performed on the wrong body part to foreign objects retained in a patient after surgery to bedsores.

This year’s statewide count is three more than any of the other eight years since the agency started gathering statistics. Errors have topped 100 in seven of those years, with a previous high of 111 errors reported in 2013.

The fact that errors are being openly reported when they do occur is a clear sign of a changing culture. The focus, the state health agency says, has shifted from beyond placing blame to supporting patients’ safety.

Though the mistakes are concerning, we have long supported their public disclosure in the belief that over the long term the reporting would prevent future errors and save lives. The reports stem from a 2005 executive order by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels that at the time made Indiana one of only two states in the country with such a high standard for medical error reporting and accountability.

As with any change in reporting procedures, numbers are likely to increase as health care professionals become more familiar with reporting laws, an Indianapolis newspaper recently reported. That’s exactly what’s happened here.

As we said in an earlier comment, medical errors more often result from a system failure than from an individual mistake. As doctors and hospitals become more accustomed to having those mistakes disclosed publicly, steps can be taken to improve those processes and reduce the errors, which was the goal of the governor’s order 10 years ago.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to awoods@tribtown.com.