Illinois Law Requires Hospitals To Publicly Report ‘Never Events’
The Chicago Sun-Times on Monday examined an Illinois law scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2008, that will require hospitals and surgery centers in the state to admit publicly if they commit any of 24 types of "never events" -- "inexcusable hospital foul-ups that should never occur but happen all too often." Such events include operating on the wrong limb, leaving a surgical sponge in the body, using the wrong blood type or causing a patient death with a medication overdose.
Under the law, which is supported by the Illinois Hospital Association, hospitals will be required to analyze the cause and take corrective action after each event. Names of patients and health care workers involved in the incidents will remain confidential, and the information will not be used in malpractice lawsuits. State officials will not take disciplinary action for the mistakes.
Illinois, which is the fourth state to create a never event law, also passed several other laws that open hospitals up for public inspection. For example, hospitals will be required to report infection rates, nurse staffing and mortality rates, and give data pertaining to 30 common procedures.
Philip Dunn, spokesperson for National Quality Forum -- which helped develop the never events list -- said mistakes happen "more often than we would like to think. You should worry about it when you go to the hospital."
William Barron, vice president of quality and patient safety at Loyola University Health System, said, "There will be a lot of angst over public reporting. But I have not heard anyone state they will not comply with the act for fear of being publicly humiliated." Barron added, "There's an evolving cultural change. It's all about transparency in health care, which by and large is a good thing."
Howard Peters, senior vice president of IHA, said that the law should help hospitals learn from their mistakes and create a "culture of safety" (Ritter, Chicago Sun-Times, 11/28).