AHRQ wants hospital patients to report errors

Administration is working on a consumer-reporting system for medical mistakes

The Obama administration is creating a new consumer-reporting system that will encourage U.S. residents to report medical mistakes and unsafe practices by providers, the New York Times reports.

According to Carolyn Clancy, director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), there currently is no way for patients to report adverse events. "Patient reports could complement and enhance reports from providers and thus produce a more complete and accurate understanding of the prevalence and characteristics" of medical errors, Clancy said.

This month, AHRQ sought White House approval to develop a prototype of the reporting system.

According to the Time, the system through online and telephone surveys would collect information on:

  • Details of the mistake;
  • The date and location of the adverse event, and whether it resulted in harm;
  • The type of harm;
  • Contributing factors; and
  • Whether the patient reported the event and to whom.

Draft forms also list possible reasons that mistakes could have occurred and request permission to share the information with providers "so they can learn about what went wrong and improve safety."

The information submitted in the reports would be analyzed by researchers from RAND Corporation and ECRI Institute, a not-for-profit organization that investigates medical errors.

Officials hope to begin collecting data in May 2013. Questionnaires also would be available at hospitals and physician offices, and information on the program would be distributed at pharmacies and mailed to patients' homes.

Providers show (reserved) support for nationwide reporting system

According to the Times, hospitals and other providers are open to the idea, but they have some concerns about how the system could affect malpractice liability and reimbursements.

Kevin Bozic, chair of the Council on Research and Quality at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, says it is important to match consumer reports of adverse events with information from patients' medical records. "[P]atients may mischaracterize an outcome as an adverse event or complication because they lack specific medical knowledge," Bozic says (Pear, New York Times, 9/22).

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