Oklahoma is first to bar MedMARx

Oklahoma is the first state in the nation to specifically bar information reported to MedMARx, a national medical errors database, from being introduced as evidence in a legal proceeding. The US Pharmacopeia (USP) in Rockville, MD, launched MedMARx in 1998 to enable hospitals to report and track medical errors anonymously. The action by the Oklahoma State Board of Health is seen as a possible step in the patient safety movement, says Jay A. Gregory, MD, president of the Oklahoma Board of Health.

"It is our hope that this recognition will encourage Oklahoma health care facilities and practitioners to report medication errors in a consistent and nonpunitive manner, and therefore increase the chances of identifying trends and implementing systemwide improvements and safety measures to help prevent medication errors," Gregory says.

Explicit legal protection

MedMARx has more than 400 users across the country. USP asked Oklahoma to recognize reports to USP’s medication error reporting programs as a privileged communications after learning that the state’s privacy statute extends protection to national organizations approved by the Board of Health. No other state has granted explicit legal protection to USP.

On the federal level, Sen. James Jeffords (I-VT), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), ranking Democrat on the HELP committee, hope to introduce bipartisan legislation to reduce the rate of medical errors, but it remains unclear how they will treat the liability issue.