Lawmakers proposed a national system of voluntary, confidential reporting of medical errors, with legal protection for providers that participate.
The Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act, introduced by a bipartisan group of senators today, would protect medical-errors information voluntarily submitted to new private organizations from being subpoenaed or used in legal discovery and generally would require that the information be treated as confidential, with sanctions for violations. However, the new "Patient Safety Organizations," or PSOs, could disclose such information in court if it were deemed material to the case, within the public interest or not available from any other source.
Sponsors of the bill stressed the voluntary nature of the reporting and said it would create no new regulations on providers.
"Only by providing a framework through which medical errors can be voluntarily reported and then analyzed will we be able to make changes to strengthen and improve our healthcare system and to reduce morbidity and mortality," Sen. James Jeffords (I-Vt.) said at a media briefing this afternoon. Besides Jeffords, other sponsors of the bill are William Frist (R-Tenn.), John Breaux (D-La.) and Judd Gregg (R-N.H).
A companion bill is expected to be introduced in the House later this week, Frist said
As proposed, providers would voluntarily report medical errors to PSOs, which would keep the information confidential and provide feedback on how to fix problems behind the errors. Violations of confidentiality provisions would be subject to $10,000 fines.
In a written statement, the American Hospital Association called the bill "a common-sense approach to improving patient safety" and said with its introduction "efforts to enhance patient safety took a huge step forward."