Within the past two weeks, provider groups, government agencies and vendors alike made a number of announcements touting their commitment to reducing medical errors. Here's a recap.
* Consumers want more information about treatment protocols and whether hospitals and doctors follow them, according to a study by the VHA hospital alliance. Clinical quality played a more important role in consumer decisions about where to go for care than did customer service or whether a doctor or hospital is in a consumer's insurance network, VHA concluded from 500 interviews. VHA said it would use the study's results to develop ways that hospitals can share their performance with patients.
* The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, Md., said it is making available $3.5 million in grant money for not-for-profit healthcare organizations to research the role of clinical information systems in promoting patient safety. Through the demonstration research projects, the AHRQ hopes to determine the extent to which information systems can reduce medical errors and improve quality of care. The agency said it will give "special priority" to applications from outpatient health settings.
* About 70 hospitals in southeast Pennsylvania said they have contributed $500,000 to a patient safety program run by the Delaware Valley Healthcare Council, Philadelphia. The program involves 16 "action steps" to minimize medication errors and has a projected budget of $1.4 million (See related story, p. 28).
* Three major pharmacy benefit management companies-AdvancePCS, Express Scripts and Merck-Medco Managed Care-said they plan to work together to develop electronic linkages among physician offices, pharmacies, managed-care companies and pharmacy benefit managers. The companies said they will build a single standardized channel for transactions among the parties and claimed the venture will improve patient safety and reduce costs.
* The National Committee for Quality Assurance will spend the next 21 months asking consumers what kind of information they want about their physicians, including the quality of the doctors' performance, and in what form consumers want the information. Financed by an undisclosed amount of money from the private, New York-based Commonwealth Fund and the California HealthCare Foundation, the NCQA also will examine how to simplify California's complex oversight of HMOs and their contracted physicians.
* Some 92% of hospitals in Massachusetts have fully implemented unit-dose systems for medicines, and 95% of hospital pharmacies in the state have begun using computerized systems, according to a survey by the Massachusetts Hospital Association. The survey was done to measure hospitals' progress in implementing the best practices for preventing medication errors as recommended in a 1999 MHA report. Although many hospitals have studied the feasibility of implementing physician order-entry systems, just 13% have done so at least partially.