The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee today unanimously approved a patient safety measure that would encourage providers to report medical errors in confidence to newly created patient safety organizations.
The bipartisan Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act would create a system for physicians and other caregivers to report medical errors, near misses and their root causes without fear of being sued and without compromising patients' legal rights.
Patient safety organizations, either public or private, will use the reports to develop new procedures and strategies to protect patients and prevent errors. The PSOs also may provide to the National Practitioner Safety Database information in which the patient, provider and reporter are not identifiable.
The measure was introduced March 26 by Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.). It also is sponsored by committee chairman Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Bill Frist, M.D. (R-Tenn.) and John Breaux (D-La.).
"The bill we are passing through committee today marks the end of four long years of partisan gridlock and represents a victory for every health care consumer, young and old," says Gregg in a written release. "This bill will allow collaboration among health care providers to encourage a culture of safety and provide a framework to ensure that medical errors will be prevented."
A similar bill was passed by the House in March by a vote of 418-6.
"When physicians can report errors in a voluntary and confidential manner, everyone benefits. Future errors can be prevented as we learn from past mistakes," says AMA President Donald Palmisano, M.D. , in a written statement. "This legislation strikes the proper balance between confidentiality and the need to ensure accountability throughout the health care system. Patient Safety Organizations (PSOs) would analyze the problems, identify solutions and provide feedback to avoid future errors."
The Senate bill also promotes the development of national standards to help integrate health information technology systems.