SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

September 24, 2012

Soon can report med.errors

Reporting of medical mistakes proposed

Patients could fill out form, send it to government

By Robert Pear THE NEW YORK TIMES

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s administration wants consumers to report medical mistakes and unsafe practices by doctors, hospitals, pharmacists and others who provide treatment.

Hospitals say they are receptive to the idea, despite concerns about malpractice liability and possible financial penalties for poor performance.

In a flier drafted for the project, the government asks: “Have you recently experienced a medical mistake? Do you have concerns about the safety of your health care?”

The flier also urges patients to contact a new “consumer reporting system for patient safety.”

The government says it would use information submitted by patients to make health care safer.  (what a blessing. . . Jan)

Federal officials say that medical mistakes often go unreported, and that patients have potentially useful information that could expose reasons for drug mix-ups, surgery on the wrong body part, radiation overdoses and myriad other problems that cause injuries, infections and tens of thousands of deaths each year.

  • Hospitals and even some doctors say the proposal has merit.
  • “It’s a great concept,” said Nancy E. Foster, a vice president of the American Hospital Association. “The idea is welcome.”

A draft questionnaire asks patients to “tell us the name and address of the doctor, nurse or other health-care provider involved in the mistake.” And it asks patients for permission to share the reports with health-care providers “so they can learn about what went wrong and improve safety.”

In seeking White House approval this month for a prototype of the reporting system, Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy, director of the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, part of the Public Health Service, said, “Currently, there is no mechanism for consumers to report information about patient-safety events.”

Federal officials said the reports would be analyzed by researchers from the RAND Corp. and the ECRI Institute, a nonprofit organization that has been investigating medical errors for four decades.

  • Consumer groups welcomed the federal initiative.

The American Medical Association had no immediate comment, saying it needs to study the details.

Some research suggests that one-fourth of patients in and outside hospitals experience “adverse events” in their care.

If the pilot project is cleared by the White House, health officials hope to start collecting information in May. Questionnaires would be made available at kiosks in hospitals and doctors’ offices.

Reporting is voluntary, and federal officials said they would keep the information confidential.

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