Many people in West Virginia and around the country were anticipating President Obama's State of the Union speech this week. One healthcare safety advocate, and former U.S. Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill had urged the President to use this national platform to call for increased reporting requirements of medical errors. He wanted the President's speech to include orders that all veterans' hospitals and hospitals on U.S. military bases to link to the Internet every morning and report every single patient fall, hospital infection and medication error that occurred within the previous 24-hours.
Mr. O'Neill also wants the administration to institute the same reporting requirements at all U.S. hospitals, long-term care centers and nursing home facilities, starting in April of this year. Although the President has the authority to direct the VA and the Military Health System in such matters it is unclear if he has the power to place these requirements on private healthcare facilities regardless of their participation in Medicaid and Medicare.
Mr. O'Neill said the problem is that on average more than 4,650 hospital infections are acquired, and almost 1,400 patients fall and an estimated 800,000 medication errors occur every 24 hours in this country. O'Neill is on the board of a national patient safety institute and is the co-founder of the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative. He said it is important that these medical errors are reported for transparency as well as improving the system.
O'Neill said the reporting requirements he is suggesting are not in an effort to punish a facility for having a higher amounts of adverse events, but for facilities to get a better picture of their performance and how they compare to other facilities. It will also allow consumers to be able to choose where they feel they may receive the highest quality care. Currently, consumers cannot go to the internet to learn how safe or unsafe a certain healthcare provider is.
When a patient is harmed through medical negligence or malpractice it can be difficult to know where to turn for help in recovering damages for their injuries. Medical malpractice and personal injury laws provide one avenue. But when a patient reports these adverse events to the local medical board the information is not generally made available to the public. A publically available reporting system could help reduce the number of adverse events such as medication errors, surgical mistakes and hospital infections by comparing facilities and what they do or don't do to prevent these errors.
Source: Information Week, "Obama Urged to Mandate Medical Error Reporting," Neil Versel, Feb. 4, 2013