Washington State Department of Health to investigate lack of reported medical errors

Washington is one of the only states in the nation to require mandatory reporting of medical errors. Since the law was enacted in 2006, however, only 52% of hospitals have reported any adverse events, and a total of 548 reports have been received, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

According to the Post-Intelligencer, the Washington State Department of Health is canvassing hospitals to determine why so few have reported medical errors under a state law that says reporting is mandatory.  The department may also randomly audit "adverse-event" logs at hospitals to determine if specific facilities are holding back from reporting medical errors to the state, according to an e-mail the department sent to hospital administrators and other healthcare professionals on Oct. 5.

A Hearst Newspaper investigation published in August highlighted the low reporting rate in Washington, along with other problems such as:

  • The state legislature failed to appropriate enough money to hire a contractor, as required by law, to analyze medical error reports and suggest ways to prevent medical errors;
  • The health department hasn't made any annual reports to the legislature on medical errors, as required by the law, because of the failure to hire a contractor;
  • No Web site for reporting medical errors was created, as required by the law;
  • The state's medical error reporting office is an under-funded one-person operation.

(SOURCES: HCPro Patient Safety Monitor, http://hcpro.com, October 14, 2009; Seattle Post Intelligencer, http://seattlepi.com, accessed October 23, 2009)