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Sharing Data About Medical Errors Without Fear of Reprisal

Sharing Data About Medical Errors Without Fear of Reprisal

Realizing that health-care providers must gather information, analyze it, and share the results with others in order to learn from medical errors, the House of Representatives passed the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act (H.R. 663). The Act encourages providers to do research and gather data about the causes of medical mishaps and then share their findings with other providers in order to learn ways to remedy systems and practices. H.R. 663 protects any "information, report, memorandum, analysis, deliberative work, statement, or root cause analysis" created by or reported to a patient safety organization. Such organizations have yet to be named, but will probably include groups already in place to survey quality and operations among health-care providers. The information described in the Act will be protected from civil or administrative subpoenas or orders, discovery process, disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, disclosure as evidence in state or federal civil or administrative proceedings, or use by an accrediting organization in the accreditation process or to remove accreditation. This protection will allow hospitals and others to share information freely without fear that the information will be used against them by malpractice attorneys or others. If passed by the Senate and enacted, the Act would establish patient safety organizations to collect data from providers on a voluntary basis and store it in a national database. Data would be analyzed to determine best practices and alternative methods for correcting or improving operations within health-care facilities to prevent future errors from occurring.

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