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Consumer Reports

Hospitals welcome medical error bill | (UPI) -- Hospital and medical error specialists Thursday applauded a bipartisan bill making its way through Congress aimed at reducing mistakes and improving patient safety.

The Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act, which was unanimously approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee Wednesday, would establish a database of medical errors from hospitals around the country.

Groups of medical error experts called patient safety organizations would analyze the reports and attempt to determine their cause. The experts then would develop and distribute methods for reducing the errors to hospitals and healthcare providers.

The United States Pharmacopeia, a nonprofit organization in Rockville, Md., that focuses on ways to reduce medical errors due to medication, commended the intent of the bill.

"We support Congress' efforts to improve patient safety," USP spokeswoman Sherrie Borden told United Press International. "We endorse the concept but we're not endorsing the bill at this point" because USP is still reviewing the details.

USP released a report in December showing 105,000 medication errors resulting in 14 deaths occurred in U.S. hospitals in 2001.

The committee unanimously approved a similar bill last year but it never reached the House floor so under the rules of Congress the process must start anew. Similar legislation was introduced in the Senate last year but it has not yet been reintroduced this session.

The bill comes as a response to a 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine that estimated as many as 98,000 deaths occur annually from medication errors. The panel that developed the report recommended Congress establish a system for collecting medical errors that protected doctors and nurses from liability to encourage them to disclose errors rather than hide them.

The bill took that recommendation into account and calls for liability and confidentiality protections.

This provision "will help us move from a 'culture of blame' to a 'culture of safety' and ultimately increase patient safety," Rep. Mike Bilirakis, R-Fla., a co-author of the bill and committee member, said in a written statement.

The bill also provides for grants to be given to doctors and hospitals lacking resources to implement new technologies that can reduce medical errors.

"It is imperative for us to move forward on this bipartisan legislation and enact it into law this year," committee Chairman Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., said in a written statement. He noted the bill is supported by physician and health care organizations.

The American Hospital Association welcomed the effort to reduce medical errors.

"We absolutely support the bill," Anne Ubl, senior associate director of AHA, told UPI.

By protecting the confidentiality of doctors and nurses who come forward with medical errors, the bill would help "create a safe zone for folks to really analyze what went wrong and why," Ubl said.

Healthcare workers' analysis of what went wrong would not be available to attorneys and that would help encourage workers to disclose medical errors, which in turn could be shared with other hospitals and help them implement ways to improve patient safety, she said.

Most states have a system that protects healthcare personnel who disclose their analysis of what went wrong in a medical error but that information cannot be shared outside of a particular hospital, Ubl said.

This legislation would allow sharing between hospitals and "that was really a missing link if we want to learn from each other about what went wrong," she said.

Ubl noted information currently available about medical errors would continue to be available to patients and attorneys.

The bill now goes before the full House but it is not certain when the House will vote on it or how many members support it at this point, Bilirakis spokeswoman Christy Stefadouros told UPI.

The American Medical Association did not return phone calls for comment.

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