AHRQ Seeks To Help Patients Report Adverse Medical Events

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The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is seeking approval from the White House for a prototype of a reporting system that would encourage patients to report medical mistakes and unsafe practices by health care providers, the New York Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 9/22).

AHRQ already has funded the development of the prototype patient reporting system. The agency is seeking approval from the Office of Management and Budget to test the prototype's efficacy (iHealthBeat, 9/10).

Impetus for Patient Reporting System

According to the Times, research indicates that 25% of patients experience "adverse events" during their medical care.

AHRQ Director Carolyn Clancy said there currently is no way for patients to report adverse events. She added that a patient reporting system "could complement and enhance reports from providers and thus produce a more complete and accurate understanding of the prevalence and characteristics" of medical errors.

Details of Proposed System

Under the proposed system, the federal government would establish Web- and telephone-based reporting methods for patients to report information on:

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

The Web- and phone-based questionnaires would ask patients why the mistake might have happened and offer a list of possible reasons. In addition, it would request patient permission to share the adverse event information with health care providers so they can take steps to improve patient 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 would be available at patient kiosks in hospitals and doctors' offices, and information on the program would be distributed at pharmacies and mailed to patients' homes.

Providers Apprehensive

According to the Times, hospitals and other health care providers are open to the idea, but they have some concerns about how the system could affect malpractice liability and possible financial penalties for poor performance.

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


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