Most Hospitals Do Not Support Mandated Medical Error Reporting Systems With Public Disclosure of Data, Survey Finds
Most hospital executives believe that state-mandated medical error reporting systems that make data available to the public would do little to improve patient safety and would lead to more lawsuits, according to a survey of 200 hospital executives published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association, the Wall Street Journal reports (Davies, Wall Street Journal, 3/16). Funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the survey includes responses from 203 CEOs and chief operating officers at hospitals in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Texas (Tanner, AP/Long Island Newsday, 3/15).
At the time of the survey, Massachusetts and Colorado had error reporting systems that made data public, while Pennsylvania and Florida's reporting systems did not make data public. Georgia and Texas did not have mandatory reporting systems at the time of the survey but since have adopted them.
According to the study:
- More than two-thirds of executives surveyed said a state-mandated nonconfidential reporting system discouraged reporting errors to the hospitals' own internal systems.
- Nearly 80% of respondents said a state-mandated nonconfidential reporting system would increase lawsuits against hospital, and 73% said it would have "no effect or a negative effect on actual patient safety."
- Less than 3% of respondents supported making public the names of doctors and hospitals involved in the errors (Wall Street Journal, 3/16).
- Executives from states with mandatory reporting systems were more supportive of nonconfidential reporting than those from states without such systems (AP/Long Island Newsday, 3/15).
- Of the executives from states with mandatory reporting systems, 51% surveyed said the state should never release error information to the patient, 33% said patients should be informed only under specific circumstances and 16% said the patient should always be informed.
Continued resistance from hospital executives makes it "unlikely that state mandatory reporting systems will be highly successful," lead study author Joel Weissman, a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, said. He added, "The hospital executives seem to have serious reservations about making this data available to the public" (Wall Street Journal, 3/16). Weissman said that the data show that patients are less likely to file malpractice lawsuits if providers admit mistakes and apologize, but "[t]hat message has not gotten out to the hospital community."
AHRQ Director Carolyn Clancy said the study highlights the conflict facing hospital administrators, noting that while there is a "big push for transparency" in health care, there is ongoing debate over whether the information should be made public.
Peter Slavin, president of Massachusetts General Hospital, said mandatory reporting promotes accountability but it also can make some providers more reluctant to report errors. Slavin did not participate in the survey (AP/Long Island Newsday, 3/15).
An abstract of the report is available online.