Never Events: Preventable Medical Errors That Should Never Happen

Never Events: Preventable Medical Errors That Should Never Happen

Never Events: Preventable Medical Errors That Should Never Happen

Author: Shebell & Shebell, LLC

Date: April 3, 2023

Category: Blog

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A "Never Event" can lead to serious health consequences

When we seek medical care, we put our trust in healthcare professionals to provide us with safe and effective treatment. Unfortunately, there are instances where preventable medical errors occur, resulting in devastating consequences for patients and their families. These types of errors are known as "Never Events," as they are serious, unambiguous, and totally preventable. Never Events are a subset of sentinel events, which are unexpected occurrences involving death or severe injury. The National Quality Forum (NQF) developed a list of 29 Never Events that are grouped into seven categories:
  • Surgical or procedural events: Errors that occur during a surgical or invasive procedure, such as wrong-site surgery.
  • Product or device events: Injuries or deaths resulting from the use of contaminated drugs, devices, or biologics.
  • Patient protection events: Incidents that compromise patient safety, such as elopement or suicide.
  • Care management events: Errors that occur during patient care, such as medication errors or falls.
  • Environmental events: Injuries or deaths resulting from unsafe conditions in a healthcare setting, such as electric shocks or burns.
  • Radiologic events: Injuries or deaths resulting from improper use of radiology equipment or exposure to radiation.
  • Criminal events: Incidents of abuse, assault, or impersonation of a healthcare provider.
These events are devastating to patients and their families, and they may indicate a fundamental safety problem within a healthcare organization. While individual events are uncommon, on a population basis, many patients still experience these serious errors. For instance, a 2013 study estimated that more than 4,000 surgical Never Events occur annually in the United States.

What's being done to prevent "Never Events"?

As the name Never Events implies, healthcare organizations are under significant pressure to eliminate them completely. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced all the way back in August 2007 that Medicare would no longer pay for additional costs associated with many preventable errors, including those considered Never Events. Since then, many states and private insurers have adopted similar policies. Since February 2009, CMS has not paid for any costs associated with wrong-site surgeries. In addition to financial penalties, Never Events are being publicly reported to increase accountability and improve the quality of care. Eleven states mandate reporting of Never Events whenever they occur, and an additional 16 states (including New Jersey) mandate reporting of serious adverse events, including many of the NQF Never Events. Healthcare facilities are accountable for correcting systematic problems that contributed to the event, with some states mandating performance of a root cause analysis and reporting its results.

Holding negligent healthcare facilities accountable

Healthcare organizations must prioritize patient safety to prevent Never Events from occurring. They must implement systems and processes that identify and prevent errors before they occur, such as surgical checklists and bar-coded medication administration systems. Furthermore, healthcare professionals must be adequately trained and educated on safe and effective practices to provide high-quality care. When Never Events occur, healthcare organizations must be held accountable for the damage caused to the patient and their family. With the help of a medical malpractice lawyer, patients and families can seek compensation for the damages they have suffered as a result of a Never Event. This may include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other costs associated with the event. At Shebell & Shebell, LLC, our dedicated team can provide guidance and support throughout the legal process, ensuring that patients and families receive the compensation they deserve. If you or a loved one has suffered harm due to a Never Event or other preventable medical error, contact us today for a free case consultation to see how an experienced medical malpractice attorney can help you. Our offices are in Shrewsbury, NJ, and Newark, NJ.

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