Wait another year for patient safety data, GAO says

Patient Safety Act of 2005 still in early stages of implementation

Nearly five years after Congress passed a law mandating that data be collected about medical errors that affect patient safety, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is another year away from receiving any data, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. 

Under the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005, AHRQ was told to set up patient safety organizations to collect data about medical errors from healthcare providers. The information would then flow to a national network of patient safety databases for analysis.

AHRQ has set up 65 patient safety organizations to collect data from hospitals, but few are actually collecting such data, GAO said in the report released Jan. 29. Furthermore, the AHRQ is still in the process of establishing the national network, and data is not expected to flow to the national network until February 2011 at the earliest, according to GAO. Finally, AHRQ has not set up a plan for collecting data from other types of providers, such as doctors' offices or health plans, the report added.

AHRQ officials said several activities were necessary to create a foundation for the program before the data could flow. In October 2005, the agency began developing common data formats, which were made final in January 2009. The agency also approved regulations for carrying out the law in January 2009.

In 2007, AHRQ contracted with Westat to create the national network of databases and with the Iowa Foundation for Medical Care to create a Privacy Protection Center to assist the safety organizations in developing de-identified data and protecting confidentiality.

Overall, the implementation of the 2005 law is in the beginning stages and its effectiveness cannot be assessed at this time, GAO concluded. In addition, because the data collection is voluntary, it is not clear that implementing the law will result in safety improvements wanted by Congress.


About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

Featured

  • Defense
    Ryan D. McCarthy being sworn in as Army Secretary Oct. 10, 2019. (Photo credit: Sgt. Dana Clarke/U.S. Army)

    Army wants to spend nearly $1B on cloud, data by 2025

    Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said lack of funding or a potential delay in the JEDI cloud bid "strikes to the heart of our concern."

  • Congress
    Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) at the Hack the Capitol conference Sept. 20, 2018

    Jim Langevin's view from the Hill

    As chairman of of the Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committe and a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rhode Island Democrat Jim Langevin is one of the most influential voices on cybersecurity in Congress.

Stay Connected

FCW INSIDER

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.