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Hospital errors in your state.com

June 4, 2009
by kate
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When it comes to transparency, some believe that what’s good for Minnesota hospitals is good for New Jersey hospitals.

According to the Gloucester County Times, there’s a bill in the N.J. Legislature would require hospitals in the state to post major medical errors online (Minnesota passed such a bill in 2003). The site would enable potential patients to compare data on different facilities regarding incidents of never events such as tools left inside patients after surgery and procedures performed on the wrong body part of person.

Yikes. I have to say that as a consumer — and one who was rather accident/injury prone in my younger days — it would be great to be able to quickly determine which hospitals have made the most errors, and avoid them if possible.

But as someone who reports on the healthcare IT industry and has been following the struggles of N.J. hospitals during the past eight or nine months, I have some doubts that this is the right approach. Like many other states, New Jersey has a number of organizations that are struggling to survive in these economic times — some of which have already had to shut their doors.

In 2008, 535 major medical errors occurred in New Jersey, resulting in 77 deaths. If every one of these infractions is published and out there to see, will that drive N.J. patients right out of the state to New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware or Connecticut hospitals?

As it stands now, N.J. hospitals are required to report never events, but it is done so confidentially according to the Patient Safety Act passed in 2005. The state releases reports about the number and types of infractions, but that information isn’t released right away, and is not categorized by hospital.

State officials say that this method allows hospitals to report the errors without risking serious damage to their reputation and lets them continue to focus on prevention. But those who support the legislation argue that it would force hospitals to improve performance and offer a higher quality of care.

It’s a tricky issue, and one that I think merits further discussion before anything happens.

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