80,000 Surgical 'Never Events' Charted Over 20 Years
In addition, 62% of surgeons were cited in more than one malpractice report and 12.4% were named in separate surgical never events. "All doctors have a 62% chance of being sued. Most of them are frivolous lawsuits, so I can't draw much from that," Makary says. "But the 12.4% having previously been involved in a paid settlement for a retained foreign body tells us that we have a high-risk group, and perhaps education efforts or other prevention efforts can be directed toward this high-risk group."
Makary points to protocols such as post-operative checklists and technology that already exists to flag retained sponges. "We have sponges with radio frequency ID tags sewn into the sponge, where a sensor can detect during or after an operation if one of these things is still in the abdomen," he says. "It's technology that makes sense. I've tried it and it works. Hospitals should adopt this technology if they want to get serious about reducing the human factor in this problem."
As troubling as never events are, Makary says they are probably impossible to eliminate because surgeons and other clinicians practice medicine in complex, labor-intensive, high-pressure environments. "For example, the wrong-patient, wrong-procedure confusion will continue to be something that will be a longstanding challenge, even though these events are rare," he says.
Makary believes that increasing transparency in the reporting of never events will motivate hospitals into action. "Some states now have public reporting of never events, like Pennsylvania. It affects hospitals' consumer ratings," he says. "The transparency increases the accountability and the amount of resources a hospital devotes to the problem."
John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.
- CEO Exchange: Preparing for Population Health
- Advocate, NorthShore Deal Would Create 16-Hospital System
- 3 Strategies for Retaining Millennial Employees
- Better HCAHPS Scores Protect Revenue
- Power of price: In South FL and the nation, healthcare costs often are shrouded in secrecy
- Narrow Networks Cut Costs, Not Quality, Economists Say
- Two NY hospitals to offer free hip and knee replacement surgeries for qualifying patients in December
- Hospital mergers may lead to higher prices
- CEO Exchange: Pressure is On to Partner, Drive Quality
- Healthcare data of 1 million NJ patients compromised since 2009