FARRELL English promotes system to report medical errors

The goal is to find patterns of medical errors and devise programs to prevent them in the future.
FARRELL, Pa. -- U.S. Rep. Phil English of Erie, R-3rd, thinks a voluntary, national system to report medical errors can go a long way to eliminating errors that kill or injure patients.
English, speaking Friday at UPMC Horizon, said he is a co-sponsor of the Patient Safety Improvement Act of 2002, which should come up for a House vote in September.
The bill would provide mechanisms to help the medical profession step up its efforts to avoid medical errors and learn from its mistakes, he said.
The Institute of Medicine reported that medical errors are the eighth leading cause of death among Americans, estimating in 1999 that such errors caused about 98,000 preventable deaths and 500,000 preventable injuries annually.
The institute said those errors cost hospitals between $17 billion and $29 billion a year.
English said the new bill should help end many medical errors and help to conserve medical financial resources that are now lost to those errors.
"This bill would call on hospitals and health providers to voluntarily and confidentially report medical errors to a Patient Safety Organization, which would then analyze and give feedback to providers on what went wrong so mistakes can be prevented in the future," he said.
The reports and the documentation they include would be seen only by the PSO and are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, English said.
The information can't be used in any legal proceedings against those who made the errors, nor can it be used to fire or discipline those responsible for an error, he said.
That confidentiality clause is the key to making the voluntary program work, he said, noting that hearings held by the House Health Subcommittee, of which he is a member, showed that hospitals and other health providers would be reluctant to participate without it.
The legislation isn't designed to punish. The goal is to find patterns for various types of errors and then devise programs to help eliminate them, English said.
The program will probably set up at least one PSO per state.
Patients or families of patients injured by medical errors won't give up any of their rights to sue for death or injuries under this legislation, English said.

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