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Government News
Patient Safety Bill Moves Closer to Passage
Psychiatric News
Volume 39 Number 18 page 10-10

The Senate unanimously passed the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act in July. The House of Representatives approved its companion bill (HR 663) last March. The bill now moves into conference where the differences between the two bills will be worked out.

The legislation, which APA supports, would provide legal protections to ensure voluntary reporting of medical error data by health care professionals and facilities. The data would be privileged, and confidentiality would be maintained by state, local, and private organizations designed to monitor and improve patient safety.

The bill calls for a national patient safety database maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services to catalog the reports and identify regional and national trends in medical mistakes.

"When physicians report errors in a voluntary and confidential manner, everyone benefits. Future errors can be prevented as we learn from past mistakes," said Donald Palmisano, M.D., AMA immediate past president in a press release.

He praised Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), chair of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and ranking minority member Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) "for working together to do the right thing for patient safety."

The AMA has long opposed allowing public access to a medical error database for fear that the data could be used in medical malpractice lawsuits." This legislation strikes the proper balance between confidentiality and the need to ensure accountability in the health care system," Palmisano stated.

Senate Democrats had delayed passing the bill until they knew that evidence available to patients under the current legal discovery process would not be affected. This required technical changes to the bill, according to a report in the July 23 Congressional Quarterly Today.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and a bipartisan group of senators including Kennedy, Gregg, James Jeffords (I-Vt.), and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) will meet in conference after they return from summer recess to sort out the differences between the House and Senate bills.

The Senate version of the bill, S 720, was incorporated in the House version of the bill as an amendment, and thus the Senate passed HR 663 in lieu of S 720.

HR 663 can be accessed online at<http://thomas.loc.gov> by searching on the bill number.

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