The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission late last week reaffirmed its call for a reduction in medical errors by hospitals and physicians, recommending that all Medicare providers be required to report a minimal set of quality data to HCFA.
That recommendation may boost congressional efforts to establish a mandatory error-reporting system. Proponents argue that such a system would improve the quality of care.
Reducing and preventing medical errors has become a hot issue in the wake of the Institute of Medicine report released late last year. That report said that up to 98,000 people die annually because of medical errors in hospitals.
Two weeks ago, four senators introduced a bill to reduce the number of medical errors within Medicare and Medicaid by requiring providers to report errors to various agencies (April 10, p. 16).
Members of MedPAC, which advises Congress on Medicare payment policy, agreed on eight other quality-related recommendations. Among other things, they asked Congress to:
* Require HHS to periodically review and update the Medicare conditions of participation; an update in the works is the first since 1986.
* Appropriate more money for survey and certification activities so that HCFA and state survey agencies can increase the frequency of inspections and strengthen the oversight process.
* Authorize HHS to develop intermediate sanctions for noncompliance with quality-reporting rules. Sanctions should be specific to each type of provider, reflect the scope and severity of the deficiency, and consider a provider's past quality performance.
* Allow HHS to take additional steps to ensure that private accrediting bodies, such as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, are making sure that facilities meet Medicare certification standards.
MedPAC commissioners are no strangers to the medical-errors issue. In a June 1999 report, published six months before the IOM report, MedPAC said that Medicare should "establish patient safety as a quality-improvement priority and take steps to reduce errors in beneficiaries' care."
In addition, Mary Wakefield, a member of MedPAC, served on the IOM committee that compiled the medical-errors report.