CMS Updates Disclosure Policy on Hospital Errors

Whitney Taylor | September 22nd, 2014

Hospital signThe Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have once again reversed their position on disclosing hospital errors to the general public. After quietly removing some errors from their website in August, the agency has now promised to restore information on some types of hospital acquired conditions, or HACs.

The New York hospital malpractice lawyers at the Sanders Firm are pleased to learn patients will have access to more information about hospital errors so they can take charge of their own healthcare choices.

Eight HACs removed from database

At question was data provided on the Medicare website that allows the general public to compare hospitals in their area. The Hospital Compare service provides prospective patients with essential information about each facility, from services provided to number of complications and deaths. Prior to August 2014, patients could also find out rates of HACs, such as foreign objects left in the patient’s body after surgery. In August, the agency removed eight HACs from their compare tool, leaving patients in the dark about particular errors seen in the hospitals they were considering.

At the time, CMS explained the reason for the decision was to eliminate excessive information about HACs that rarely occurred. However, public safety advocates decried the decision, saying it took vital information out of the hands of the patients it was designed to protect. While the HACs removed might have been relatively rare, some of those events, such as leaving surgical equipment inside a patient, should never happen at all. By providing this information, patients are better equipped to choose the best possible facilities for their medical needs.

Medical errors may not be rare

The argument that some of these HACs are too rare to report has also been called into question. In an earlier report in 2013, USA Today found that leaving foreign objects in a patient may occur twice as often as estimates given by the government. The hospital error, which may occur as many as 6,000 times each year, can cause serious complications and even death for some patients. Sponges, for example, can become embedded in the intestines, causing patients to suffer a lifetime of pain and the removal of portions of the intestine.

Now, the CMS has announced it will once again make information about this HAC and others available on its website. The data should be available by the end of the year and will be incorporated into hospital safety ratings published by the Leapfrog Group next spring. However, the information will not be added to the Hospital Compare website, where it was originally found.

“We are working to make it available as a public-use file for researchers and others who are interested in the data,” Aaron Albright, CMS spokeperson, was quoted as saying at USA Today. “It’s been requested so we will make it available.

Advice from NY medical malpractice attorneys

If you are the victim of a surgical mistake or other form of medical negligence, the New York hospital malpractice lawyers at the Sanders Firm can help. Bringing more than 45 years of trial experience to the legal table, our firm works with investigators and expert consultants to bring those responsible for your injuries to justice.

Hospital errors can be life-changing for a patient and family. Legal compensation can relieve the financial strain of medical bills, lost wages and other damages. However, statutes of limitations do apply to medical malpractice cases in New York. If you or a loved one suspects hospital malpractice, it is important to seek legal assistance as soon as possible. Contact the Sanders Firm today at 1.800.FAIR.PLAY for a free evaluation of your case.


  1. USA Today, Feds Reverse Course, Will Release Hospital Mistake Data, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/09/07/hhs-change-reporting-hospital-mistakes-foreign-objects/15084175/

  2. Health IT Analytics, Study: HACs as Defined by CMS do not Represent True Impact, http://healthitanalytics.com/2014/06/13/study-hacs-as-defined-by-cms-do-not-represent-true-impact/

  3. Medicare.gov, Hospital Compare, http://www.medicare.gov/hospitalcompare/search.html?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

  4. King 5, Feds Stop Public Disclosure of Many Serious Hospital Errors, http://www.king5.com/story/news/health/2014/08/18/14041012/

  5. Healthcare Dive, Administration Reverses Decision, Will Release Hospital Errors, http://www.healthcaredive.com/news/administration-reverses-decision-will-release-hospital-errors/306450/