Never Say Never

Earlier this week, USA Today ran a story called “Feds stop public disclosure of many serious hospital errors”. The title immediately caught my attention. Effective this week the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has removed data from their public spreadsheets on eight avoidable “hospital acquired conditions” (HACs). These include, for example, how often a hospital gives a patient the incorrect blood type or how many patients have surgical towels left in their body accidentally. CMS said the new data includes more reliable measurements of the same condition, but the change has advocates for patient safety up in arms.

Patients want to know when their neighborhood hospital does something truly great for the community. This could include delivering exceptional care, advancing cutting-edge research or attracting top-notch doctors. Likewise, many patients believe they deserve to know if the hospital has areas needing significant improvement. This may mean the hospital regularly makes a certain kind of major medical error or has a high rate of accidental patient deaths.

This shift in data available to patients and their families is interesting, especially in light of the recent pressures for hospitals to be more transparent with patients.

So-called “never” events, unfortunately, sometimes happen. And sometimes, no one is to blame – but should the public still know about it?

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