Oct 23, 2008

New Hampshire Hospitals Not Required To Report Medical Errors

MANCHESTER, NH — The Union Leader recently ran a two-part report on medical errors in New Hampshire.

The first article, In-hospital errors kill thousands in U.S., but go unreported in New Hampshire, reports that as of Oct. 1, Medicare stopped reimbursing hospitals for some medical errors, or "never events," also referred to as "adverse medical events." Never events have become an insurance/reimbursement issue, a quality care issue and a public health issue. The article states:

"Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Hampshire, the state's largest insurer with 600,000 members, stopped reimbursing hospitals for 11 never events in April and plans to add more to the list. Its list includes surgery on the wrong body part or wrong patient, wrong surgery and several infections, fractures, crushing injuries and burns acquired in the hospital.

Dr. Richard Lafleur, medical director for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Hampshire, said: "We are not looking at huge savings, but one never event is too many. Our goal is to get to zero."

But even he doesn't know how many never events occur in New Hampshire hospitals. Lafleur said Anthem relied on national data that was also used in the Medicare push to eliminate reimbursement for never events. By definition, never events are clearly identifiable, preventable, and serious in their consequences.

Anthem is working with hospitals and doctors to analyze how and why such errors occur and to change practices to make sure they don't happen, he said."

In NH hospitals not required to publicize mistakes, it is reported that 26 states plus the District of Columbia have reportable medical error systems in place, according to the National Academy of State Health Policies. New Hampshire is the only New England state without such a system. Rep. Peter Batula plans to propose legislation regarding hospital errors in the next legislative session.

For more details and analysis, click on the article links above to read the articles on the Union Leader web site.