Changes to Hospital Inpatient Volume After Newspaper Reporting of Medical Errors

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Abstract

Objective

The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of medical error case reporting by national newspapers on inpatient volume at acute care hospitals.

Design

A case-control study was conducted using the article databases of 3 major Japanese newspapers with nationwide circulation between fiscal years 2012 and 2013. Data on inpatient volume at acute care hospitals were obtained from a Japanese government survey between fiscal years 2011 and 2014. Panel data were constructed and analyzed using a difference-in-differences design.

Setting

Acute care hospitals in Japan.

Participants

Hospitals named in articles that included the terms “medical error” and “hospital” were designated case hospitals, which were matched with control hospitals using corresponding locations, nurse-to-patient ratios, and bed numbers.

Exposure

Medical error case reporting in newspapers.

Main outcome measures

Changes to hospital inpatient volume after error reports.

Results

The sample comprised 40 case hospitals and 40 control hospitals. Difference-in-differences analyses indicated that newspaper reporting of medical errors was not significantly associated (P = 0.122) with overall inpatient volume.

Conclusions

Medical error case reporting by newspapers showed no influence on inpatient volume. Hospitals therefore have little incentive to respond adequately and proactively to medical errors. There may be a need for government intervention to improve the posterror response and encourage better health care safety.

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