Healthcare News & Insights

New patient reporting system for medical mistakes on horizon

Do you think it’s a good idea for patients to report medical mistakes and unsafe practices by doctors, hospitals, pharmacists and other healthcare providers?

Well, the Obama administration does.

In fact, according to the New York Times, the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) wants consumers to divulge medical mistakes and unsafe practices through a new reporting system. The agency is seeking the administration’s official stamp of approval.

The new reporting system would have patients and their families report errors through a website or telephone interviews.

Why does the Obama administration want this new reporting system?

To make healthcare safer, noted the Times article.

The government wants to know if a mistake involved the wrong medication, dosage or a reaction to a drug, or if the patient got an infection due to unsanitary conditions, or if there were problems with anesthesia.

Complements provider reports

These patient reports could give a more complete and accurate understanding of medical mistakes and how prevalent they are, noted Dr. Carolyn Clancy, director of the AHRQ.

Even Nancy Foster, a vice president of the American Hospital Association, thinks it’s a good idea.

Often medical mistakes go unreported and information on these errors could help prevent and expose reasons why hospitals suffer from such mistakes as drug mix-ups or surgery on the wrong body part.

A draft of the questionnaire asks patients to provide information such as the name and address of the doctor or healthcare provider involved in the mistake, and if it would be OK to share the contents of the report with the healthcare professional. Sharing the information would allow doctors and other healthcare professionals to learn what actually went wrong and find ways to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

The reports would be analyzed by researchers from the RAND Corporation and the ECRI Institute, a nonprofit organization that’s been investigating medical errors for 40 years.

Moving forward

If the project is given the green light by the White House, it’ll start collecting data in May.

It would distribute questionnaires through kiosks in hospitals and doctor’s offices. It would also provide flyers to pharmacies explaining the project, and have insurance companies mail flyers to patients’ homes detailing the benefits of such a system. And participation in the project would be strictly voluntary.

While most organizations and healthcare professionals think the program is a good idea, some are worried. While patients perceptions of events are extremely important, there’s the possibility that patients will mischaracterize an outcome or complication because they lack the appropriate medical knowledge. That’s why it would be important to tie patients’ reports with information in the medical record.

The American Medical Association hasn’t commented on the project yet, noting it had to study the details.

We’ll keep you posted on the outcome.

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