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Surgical errors may be reported inaccurately in Indiana due to nearly half of all surgeries taking place in non-hospital, ambulatory, free-standing outpatient facilities that report a much lower rate of errors than hospitals. In 2007, four surgical errors were reported, while hospitals reported forty-five errors. Though ambulatory facilities do not take the high-risk trauma surgeries that hospitals do, which can contribute to the low rate of errors, a flaw in the state’s rule for reporting errors in non-hospital systems may play a role as well.

The rule currently states that the health care establishment that made the error is responsible in reporting the error. These facilities, however, do not know of their mistake since patients that had a surgical error will not generally go back to the same establishment. Beginning in early 2009, Indiana plans to add a new reportable error: hospital infections, in particular those which developed in a patient’s intravenous or central line, and the development of pneumonia after hospital admission.

Post-surgery infections and complications were at the center of a resolution passed this month by the Indiana State Medical Association’s governing body. They would like doctors that do not have hospital privileges to still be held responsible for their surgeries under peer-review boards, where complaints and problems with doctors are handled. With the continuous invention of new outpatient medical technology, however, many officials say it is difficult for state regulators to keep pace with patient protection needs.

It is only right and fair that health care providers, doctors and hospitals, attempt to accurately report these types of errors, including surgical errors. If not done, the there is a lack of accountability, and responsibility, on the part of the providers. This writer believes that surgical errors are likely underreported in most states, if not all of them, because of the manner or methods of reporting.

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