Medical mistakes in Minn. revealed

Fairview-University Medical Center reported the most preventable errors.

Cati Vanden Breul

For the first time, a new report released Wednesday offered a glimpse into the frequency of preventable medical errors that occur in Minnesota hospitals.

In the study released by the Minnesota Department of Health, state hospitals reported 99 preventable medical mistakes between June 2003 and October 2004. The errors are believed to have caused 20 deaths.

Fairview-University Medical Center has the most hospital beds in the state and also led the state with the most errors. Thirteen preventable errors were reported, which included one death, during the time period.

A law passed in 2003 required hospitals to report several types of medical errors, such as giving patients the wrong medications, performing surgery on the wrong body parts or misusing medical devices.

The law required hospitals to report the occurrence of 27 different forms of mistakes that National Quality Forum experts said should never occur in hospitals.

A state health official said they plan to use the report to improve medical care in Minnesota.

“We are pleased to be able to look at this data,” said Bruce Rueben, president of the Minnesota Hospital Association.

Rueben said Minnesota hospitals will be able to better prevent mistakes now that a report with actual statistics is available.

A Fairview Health Services official said the company is disappointed with the number of mistakes but views the report as a way to learn and improve.

“We think that the report is a good thing for Minnesota,” said Alison Page, vice president for patient safety at Fairview Health Services.

“Behind every one of those numbers is a patient and family experience where their care was less than ideal,” Page said.

She said Fairview-University Medical Center, as well as other hospitals around the state, has already begun to implement programs that will prevent future medical mistakes.

Minnesota is the only state to provide a report like this, and doctors view the report as a positive step for the future of the nation’s health-care system, officials said.

“Physicians support the idea of reporting as a way to learn,” said Mary Koppel, assistant vice president for public affairs at the University’s Academic Health Center.

Koppel said the idea of hospitals reporting medical errors is something that has been historically nonexistent.

“The whole effort about reporting adverse health care is pretty groundbreaking,” Koppel said.

Page said the report will encourage the public to hold hospitals accountable for their actions and make sure they are getting quality care.

“It prompts the general community to ask tough questions,” Page said.

She said accidents in health care are inevitable, but “openness” is what is important.

New Jersey and Connecticut are expected to adopt similar reporting requirements for their hospitals in the future, Rueben said.