Obama Administration Sets Up Program for Patients to Report Medical Errors by Doctors, Hospitals, Pharmacists, Nurses

The Obama administration wants consumers to be able to report medical mistakes and unsafe practices by doctors, hospitals, pharmacists and others who provide treatment.

Some hospital spokesmen say they are receptive to the idea, although they have concerns about malpractice liability,
Federal officials say medical mistakes often go unreported, and that patients have potentially relevant information. The information often entails drug mix-ups, surgery on the wrong body part, surgical instruments left in patients’ bodies following surgery, radiation overdoses and other problems.

A draft questionnaire asks patients to “tell us the name and address of the doctor, nurse or other health care provider involved in the mistake.” It asks patients for permission to share the reports with health care providers.

Dr. Carolyn Clancy sought White House approval in September for a prototype of the reporting system. Clancy is the director of the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a part of the Public Health Service.

Consumer groups welcomed the initiative. Some research suggests that one-fourth of patients experience “adverse events” in their care. In the reporting system envisioned by the Obama administration, patients and their relatives would report medical errors through a Web site and in telephone interviews.

For each incident, the government wants to know “what happened; details of the event; when, where, whether there was harm; the type of harm; contributing factors; and whether the patient reported the event and to whom.”

The questionnaire asks why the mistake happened and lists possible reasons:

¶ “A doctor, nurse or other health care provider did not communicate well with the patient or the patient’s family.”
¶ “A health care provider didn’t respect the patient’s race, language or culture.”
¶ “A health care provider didn’t seem to care about the patient.”
¶ “A health care provider was too busy.”
¶ “A health care provider didn’t spend enough time with the patient.”
¶ “Health care providers failed to work together.”
¶ “Health care providers were not aware of care received someplace else.”

If the pilot project is cleared by the White House, health officials hope to start collecting information in May 2013. Federal officials said they would keep the information confidential.

A story about the new reporting system appeared Sept. 22, 2012, in the New York Times.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical malpractice issues and serious personal injury matters for individuals and families for more than 36 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Chicago’s Jefferson Park, Palos Heights, Alsip, Park Forest, Mount Prospect, Chicago’s Edgewater, Franklin Park, Glendale, Itasca, and South Chicago Heights, Ill.

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