Medical Error Reporting System Misguided, Doctors Say

TUCSON, Ariz., Sept. 26, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) issued the following statement:

The Obama Administration's project to encourage patient reporting of medical "mistakes" should be judged on the basis of its likely effect rather than its stated laudable purpose.

According to Robert Pear in The New York Times, "the government says it will use information submitted by patients to make health care safer."  Questionnaires are to be made available in kiosks in hospitals and doctors' offices. Patients are to provide the name and address of the doctor, nurse, or other provider involved in a "mistake"—which might be just an unfavorable but unavoidable outcome.

"The process encourages adversarial relations with patients, rather than trust and cooperation, with the federal government overseeing every encounter," states Dr. Jane Orient, AAPS executive director. "Moreover, the questionnaires are mainly focused on the Administration's political objectives, not on safety-related factors."

The Affordable Care Act ("ObamaCare") strives to eliminate "disparities," mandate adoption of electronic medical records, and change delivery systems to "coordinate care" and pay for bureaucratically defined "quality" or "outcomes" rather than services rendered.

The questionnaires encourage patients to report perceived lack of respect for the patient's race, language, or culture; inadequate information about prior treatment; or failure of providers to work together or spend enough time with patients.

"What can the government do with such vague, subjective impressions?" asks Dr. Orient. "The most likely use is a rationale for cutting payment."

Important problems not mentioned on this politically driven list include dysfunctional electronic records; onerous, costly, time-wasting government requirements; policies that keep patients' regular physicians from participating in their care; and hospital systems problems.

An inexpensive, simple, voluntary, non-punitive system, modeled on the Aviation Safety Reporting System, is far more likely to improve safety. Its purpose would be to communicate de-identified information about mishaps and "near misses" to facilities that can use it to improve their operations.

Unfortunately, neither government nor hospitals have acted on this idea, presented a decade ago, as outlined in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.

"It is time to consider such a system as an alternative to a punitive government boondoggle," Dr. Orient said.

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) is a national organization representing physicians in all specialties, ( which was founded in 1943 to defend the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship.


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