Local hospitals report 4 errors

More than 470,000 patients were discharged or visited Johnson County’s three area hospitals in 2014. More than 56,000 surgical procedures were conducted.

The overwhelming majority of those visits and operations ended without incident. But in four cases, an error was made. Hospital officials have to work to ensure even the tiny percentage of mistakes are eliminated.

New data released from the Indiana State Department of Health show that Community Hospital South reported two medical errors last year, while Franciscan St. Francis Health-Indianapolis and Johnson Memorial Hospital reported one each.

“One is too many,” said Joe Stuteville, spokesman for Franciscan St. Francis Health. “Despite our best efforts, human error does on very rare occasions occur.”

The state health department collects data on 28 preventable incidents at hospitals in its yearly study. The most common error last year was pressure ulcers, or bedsores (44 instances), followed by 27 incidents of foreign objects left in patients after surgeries.

Community Hospital South reported one of each, though the exact circumstances could not be elaborated on, said Jean Putnam, chief clinical quality officer and interim chief nursing officer for Community Health Network.

When an error occurs, hospital officials gather to analyze the causes and what circumstances prevented the procedure from having the right outcome.

Hospital staff work throughout the year and study the scientific evidence about each procedure and practice they do. If research shows a safer way to do it, the hospital implements it, Putnam said.

A coalition of Indianapolis hospitals meets regularly to work on best practices and improve patient safety.

“We want to think about how can we take care of our patients and organize our systems, so we have no harm. Zero harm is the goal,” Putnam said.

At both Franciscan St. Francis Health and Johnson Memorial, a surgical procedure was performed on the wrong body part.

Hospital staff routinely practice the set of standardized steps to eliminate errors.

For example, surgical teams collaborate with nurses, other doctors and all staff members involved with a procedure. The surgical team goes as far as to confer with the patient beforehand, asking the patient to confirm where the procedure is going to take place, just to ensure there is no confusion.

Unfortunately, mistakes still happen, Stuteville said. By using the reports produced by the state on medical errors, hospitals can do their best to take precautions so those problems don’t happen again.

“Reports like these are excellent because they help not only our hospital but all hospitals in the state,” Stuteville said. “Standardized way to reduce errors and improve patient experience, so these reports are very beneficial.”

The report shows that Indiana set another record for medical errors in 2014.

The state agency said Tuesday there were 114 preventable adverse medical incidents in hospitals and health care facilities. That’s three more than in any of the other eight years since the agency started gathering statistics. Errors have topped 100 in seven of nine years, with the previous high being 111 in 2013.

The department said in its study that there’s an increased potential for medical errors with today’s “larger and decentralized” patient care system.

“This report is intended to encourage a health care culture that looks beyond blame and supports patient safety through collaboration and responsibility,” the agency said.

When the state announced plans to start collecting data on preventable errors, experts warned that the number could increase over time with health care professionals becoming familiar with reporting laws, one news media outlet reported.

Nine errors were reported at Lutheran Health Network facilities, including five at Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne.

Lutheran Health spokesman Geoff Thomas told the (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette in an email that its focus on patient safety and staff education “is as strong today as it has ever been.”

“We set the bar high in these areas and regret when we fall short of our own expectations,” Thomas said. “Personalized, quality care is delivered by humans, and while none of our staff intends to contribute to a medical error, humans can make mistakes.”

Indiana University Health reported nine medical errors at its four hospitals in Indianapolis. Eight errors were reported by St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, seven were reported by Gary’s Methodist Hospital, and five were reported by South Bend’s Memorial Hospital.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.