WASHINGTON — Hospitals make mistakes, sometimes deadly mistakes. A patient may get the wrong medication or have surgery intended for another person. When errors such as these are reported, state and federal officials inspect the hospital in question and file a detailed report.
For the first time, this information on the quality and safety of the nation’s hospitals has been made available to the public online.
A new website, www.hospitalinspections.org, includes detailed reports of hospital violations dating back to January 2011, searchable by city, state, name of the hospital and keyword.
The new database makes full inspection reports for acute-care hospitals and rural critical-access hospitals instantly available to those interested in the quality of their local hospitals.
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The database also reveals national trends in hospital errors. For example, keyword searches yield the incidence of certain violations across all hospitals. A search on the word “abuse,” for example, yields 862 violations at 204 hospitals since 2011.
Once they receive a complaint, federal and state inspectors attempt to discover the cause of a hospital error or violation. For example, poor safety procedures result in thousands of patients slipping and falling each year in U.S. hospitals, and poor sterilization methods cause thousands more to contract infections.
Once the causes of specific problems are determined, federal and state authorities require hospitals to file a plan to correct them. These plans remain under wraps, as do inspection reports on psychiatric hospitals and long-term-care hospitals.
Also unavailable are the results of complaint-based and routine inspections by the nation’s largest private hospital accreditation organization, The Joint Commission. Because the commission is a private entity, it is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.