MEDICAL ERRORS: Health Industry Blasts Clinton’s Plan
President Clinton's proposal to require mandatory reporting of medical errors drew fire yesterday from many medical experts and hospital executives, who argued that there was little evidence to support the effectiveness of mandatory reporting on improving patient safety, the New York Times reports. Even the federal official charged with leading the effort against medical errors admitted that no solid proof exists to support mandatory reporting. Testifying before a Senate committee, Dr. John Eisenberg, director of the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, said some of the criticism lobbed at the proposal was "on target." He said, "Do we know if these programs work? No, we don't. We don't know how well they work, and when they work best." Eisenberg said the federal government would study the best way to conduct mandatory reporting.
Critics Not Pleased
Many health officials were skeptical. Former American Medical Association President Nancy Dickey said, "The president has the cart before the horse. He'd put in place mandatory reporting, then study it and do something different if it doesn't improve patient safety" (Pear, 2/23). Carmela Coyle, senior vice president of the American Hospital Association, said that although the president's proposal contained some "good ideas," "Our concern is around the protection of the information that's contained in those reports. Any enterprising malpractice attorney is going to be able to track back to the caregivers" (Gerlin, Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/23). Some officials expressed concern that mandatory reporting would actually reduce the number of medical mistakes that are currently acknowledged. California Healthcare Association legal counsel and Vice President Maureen Sullivan said, "Our concern is it would reinforce a culture of blaming and fear, which would totally contravene the purpose of ferreting out where medical errors are" (Marquis/Rubin, Los Angeles Times, 2/23).
Not Enough Money?
While medical officials worried about possible negative effects of mandatory reporting, some members of Congress yesterday questioned whether the administration had allocated enough money to reduce medical errors. At a joint hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and the Senate Appropriations committees, Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) questioned whether the $20 million requested by the president would adequately cover the costs. Citing the Institute of Medicine's report and recommendations for medical errors, Frist said, "If the IOM said $25 million and you say $20 million, what is the administration not doing?" Yesterday's hearing marked the fourth time the HELP committee had discussed medical errors. Members said they hoped to offer a bipartisan bill soon (Fulton, CongressDaily, 2/22).