Even though they are concerned about liability and financial penalties, hospitals say they are receptive to an idea proposed by President Obama that would encourage patients to report medical mistakes. The government says that medical errors often go unreported and that hospitals could improve their safety records if they had more information.
Carolyn Clancy, director of the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, said, “Currently, there is no mechanism for consumers to report information about patient safety events.” The agency has drafted a flier that includes questions such as, “Have you recently experienced a medical mistake? Do you have concerns about the safety of your health care?” And it urges patients to contact a new “consumer reporting system for patient safety.”
“Patient reports could complement and enhance reports from providers and thus produce a more complete and accurate understanding of the prevalence and characteristics” of medical errors, Dr. Clancy said. The proposed reporting system would allow patients and their relatives to report medical mistakes through a website and in telephone interviews. Health officials hope to start collecting information in May. Reporting will be voluntary, and information provided by patients will be kept confidential.
This initiative is in line with other government efforts to improve the quality of care provided in hospitals and other clinical settings. In recent years, federal officials have tried to develop mechanisms that link quality of care with Medicaid and Medicare payments. Collecting more information from patients could be an effective way to improve patient outcomes and safety.