Bush signs law that creates medical error databases

The Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005

The Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005 that President Bush signed today will require the establishment of a network of databases to hold data on medical errors that patient safety organizations and health care providers voluntarily report.

The bill resulted from a 1999 report titled "To Err is Human" from the Institute of Medicine, which found that 98,000 people a year die in the United States as a result of medical errors.

The report recommends that Congress pass a bill that would provide legal protections for patient safety information, encouraging the reporting of patient errors, so health care personnel can learn from its mistakes.

Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.) first introduced a patient safety bill in 2000. He said the syringing of the bill today “will go a long way in reducing patient deaths and injuries that result from preventable errors.”

The bill ensures legal protection by calling for the voluntary reporting of medical errors, keeping patient and provider information anonymous. The bill requires the Department of Health and Human Services to set up and maintain an interactive, evidence-based management resource that can analyze the reports.

The bill states that projects funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality will help determine the best way to structure and use the patient safety and reporting systems.

Don Woodlock, general manager of inpatient clinical at GE Healthcare Information Technologies, said that on a practical level, electronic health records would be the baseline reporting system for patient safety data. Woodlock said EHRs could remove the identities of the provider and patient and then export the report to the patient safety databases.

He added that the removal of provider information could help spur reporting of medical errors. Before passage of the bill, which guarantees anonymity, providers were reluctant to report errors due to fear of litigation.

Dr. J. Edward Hill, president of the American Medical Association, said the patient safety law “is the catalyst we need to transform the current culture of blame and punishment into one of open communication and prevention.”

Dick Davison, president of the American Hospital Association, said the bill would help patient safety by ensuring that “nurses and physicians share information when mistakes happen to help learn from them and prevent them. Through this legislation, data will be gathered and important lessons learned and shared.

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