A new Indiana law requiring hospitals to report medical errors is intended to improve overall patient care, not to punish caregivers who make mistakes, according to a representative of St. Vincent Clay Hospital in Brazil.
The legislation, which took effect Jan. 1, requires hospitals to catalog errors in 27 categories within 15 days of their discovery. Records compiled in 2006 will be made available to the public in 2007. Andrea Baysinger, a Clinical and Community Education Coordinator at St. Vincent Clay, sees the law as an opportunity to improve services to patients at the hospital. She said a more complete knowledge of the mistakes made by hospital staff will enable administrators to nip future problems in the bud.
"The most important thing to ask is, 'Why did the adverse event happen?' and 'How do we make sure it never happens again?'" she said. "Our associates strive to provide a safe care environment and we are committed to learning why a serious event happened and preventing it from happening again."
The legislation mandates the reporting of a variety of missteps in treatment, from bedsores and incorrect prescription dosages to life-threatening mistakes in major surgeries. The law places Indiana at the forefront of a larger nationwide effort to make caregivers responsible to the patients they serve-- Minnesota is the only other state in the U.S. with a similar law on the books.
But Baysinger dismissed the notion that intensified scrutiny of hospital errors would put doctors on the defensive.
"Because the current adverse event reporting is limited to the number and type of adverse events, there is no anticipation that (the new law) will impact physician recruitment or retention," she said. "(The law) clearly states that it is not intended to serve as the basis for punishing health care providers."
According to a Purdue University press release, a 1999 Institute of Medicine report determined that 44,000 to 98,000 patients die every year as a result of preventable errors in U.S. hospitals. Baysinger said she hopes the accountability required under the new law will reduce that number to zero.
"In the end, we feel that one patient harmed is too many," she said.