Bush Administration Lends Support to Bill Seeking To Reduce Medical Errors Through Voluntary Reporting
The Bush administration yesterday endorsed a bill (HR 4889) designed to reduce medical errors by encouraging health professionals to voluntarily report any mistakes, the Hartford Courant reports. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.), calls for doctors, nurses and other health professionals to voluntarily report medical errors to "newly created" patient safety organizations. The PSOs would analyze the reports and suggest ways to prevent future errors. All reports would remain confidential and would not be used in malpractice lawsuits. Speaking at a House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee hearing yesterday, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said, "The proposal assures doctors and health professionals that ... information [they report] will be used for patient quality improvement efforts and will be kept confidential. This will encourage them to report and will greatly increase the amount of data available for analysis by experts." He added, "We think this is a giant step forward." But Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) criticized the bill, citing a 1999 Institute of Medicine report that linked as many as 98,000 deaths each year to medical errors. The report called for mandatory reporting of medical errors. Stark said, "My sense of what we're discussing here is only half a loaf" (MacDonald, Hartford Courant, 9/11). Stark said he supports "public disclosure" and was concerned that the measure could limit access to information "legitimately needed by attorneys for those seriously injured," CongressDaily/AM reports (Rich, CongressDaily/AM, 9/11). Johnson said, "We have spent too much time discussing the potential for quality improvement and fewer errors in health care. It is clear that leadership can make a difference and Congress should take the lead" (Hartford Courant, 9/11).