A recent study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that hospitals, and not outside agencies, are able to decide for themselves whether to report infections related to surgery. Inadequately regulated hospital infection reporting costs the nation $10 billion per year, contributes to 8,000 patient deaths annually and allows a quarter of all surgical patients to acquire a post-surgical infection.
Johns Hopkins Study Results
The Johns Hopkins study found that although 21 states require public reporting of surgical site infections, only eight follow through on their mandates and only ten types of surgeries are actually reported, even though 250 types are eligible for such reporting.
This haphazard approach is evident in the wide spectrum of procedures which are and are not reported throughout the country. South Carolina tracks infections for seven different procedures. Massachusetts only tracks two types and Oregon only one. Seven states monitor infections that occur after coronary bypass surgery, but only one state tracks infections after spinal fusion.
The Impact Lax Reporting Has on Patients
This pick-and-choose infection reporting strategy hurts patients. Failing to fully track surgical site infections provides incomplete safety information to hospital and government policy makers who are responsible for improving health care safety. Without a national mandate, there is no way to get a clear picture of the rate of surgical site infections.
Unfortunately, lack of federal oversight can make hospitals that are committed to adequately monitoring surgical infection rates seem unsafe, since their infection rates seem higher than their competitors. A national mandate to require health care facilities to report infections related to a comprehensive list of surgeries would level the playing field between hospitals and allow patients to make more informed choices about where they receive medical care.
New York was the first state in the country to mandate reporting after cardiac surgery and 15 years of data show that New York has the lowest mortality and complication rates in the nation for this kind of surgery. It is clear that the data collected in New York has helped policy makers institute changes to reduce infections.
Failing to Report May Cause Liability Issues
Until health care facilities make infection reporting a priority, failure to monitor surgical site infections leaves these facilities vulnerable to liability issues and leave patients vulnerable to poor outcomes. If infections go unreported, hospital administrators have little way of knowing their infection rates are troublesome.
It may be possible for victims of these infections to hold health care professionals liable for negligence. If a patient can show a causal relationship between their treatment and injury and a professional or hospital's failure to meet a standard of care, he or she may be entitled to compensation.
If you or a loved one has been victim of a surgical site infection, please contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney to explore your legal options.