USA TODAY is promoting a “patient safety page” which is intended to help readers find patient advocacy advice when they suspect medical malpractice has occurred. Experts estimate that medical errors claim about 98,000 Americans a year, more than 250 lives each day.
The new feature has two goals – to allow readers (patients, surviving family members and care providers) to share stories with the newspaper that might improve health care.
The second goal is to provide readers with resources, such as medical and government agencies that investigate complaints about inadequate health care. Such agencies, which sometimes have a duty to investigate every claim, frequently use doctors, nurses and other professionals to review cases looking for public health and safety issues.
When medical malpractice is suspected, you should consider all of your available options, including discussing the problem with the health care provider, filing a formal grievance, consulting with an experienced med mal lawyer and making the issue public.
To submit a medical story to USA TODAY, visit click here. Information submitted will be reviewed by USA TODAY reporters and editors. Caution is advised, because cases of interest to USA TODAY will be verified by reporters, which may require patients to make public private medical records while allowing their caregivers to speak publicly about the treatment provided. Reporters may ask for copies of medical records, death certificates, autopsy reports, court and investigative documents among others.
USA TODAY provides the following patient-safety resources:
• State medical boards investigate complaints about doctors. Here is a list maintained by the American Medical Association:
• The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations investigates complaints about hospitals, surgical centers, assisted living homes, laboratories and other facilities it inspects and accredits. •The federal government’s Agency for Health Care Research and Quality investigates cases “that illustrate key issues in patient safety and quality” by those who register at the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Rounds on the Web portal. http://www.webmm.ahrq.gov/
•The Food and Drug Administration investigates reports from consumers and health professionals about serious adverse events, potential and actual product use errors, as well as product quality problems associated with the use of drugs, medical devices, nutritional products and cosmetics at the agency’s MedWatch reporting system.
Before contacting any agency, have a clear idea of your goals, whether you you are seeking more information, file a grievance or determine your legal rights. If you have concerns, obtain a copy of the complete medical file. Complete and well-organized records are essential for supporting any claims or complaints If you have suffered the tragedy of losing a loved one, you may also require copies of the death certificate and autopsy reports. Federal law, referred to as HIPPA, gives every patient the right to obtain a copy of their medical records. Visit Your Health Information Privacy Rights http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa/consumer_rights.pdf
The Center on Medical Rights and Privacy at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute maintains a list of state consumer guides that help patients understand their rights under state medical records laws.
In Colorado you have the right to:
See and get a copy of your medical record -Your health care provider usually must let you see your medical record or give you a copy of it within a reasonable time after they receive your request. Doctors generally must let you see or get a copy of your medical record within 30 days, and hospitals within 10 days. This right is called the right to access your medical record. Your health care provider is allowed to charge you a fee for copying your record. They can also charge you the actual cost for postage if you have the copy mailed to you.
Have information added to your medical record to make it more complete or accurate – This right is called the right to amend your record. In certain cases, your provider can deny your request to amend your record. If this happens, you have the right to add your own short statement explaining your position to your medical record.
File a complaint – You have the right to file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services if you believe your health care provider has violated your right to see, get a copy of, or amend your medical record. You can also file a complaint with the state agency that regulates your health care provider.