Congressmen question value of patients reporting errors

In response to news about a possible program that would encourage patients to report medical errors, eight U.S. congressmen wrote to Carolyn Clancy, MD, director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, to express their concerns.

The letter was signed by Tom Coburn, MD (R-OK), John Boozman (R-AR), Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA), Ron Paul, MD (R-TX), Phil Gingrey, MD (R-GA), Paul Brown, MD (D-GA), John Fleming, MD (R-LA), and Phil Roe, MD (R-TN). The congressmen question the sample questions that patients would be asked in a questionnaire and the proposed answers for why the error occurred, such as “a health care provider was too busy” or “health care providers failed to work together.” Such questions and answers would not provide the empirical data required to improve patient safety, they say.

Here are excerpts from their letter:

  • “While the goal of providing greater transparency to patients is a noble one, we have significant concerns that this proposal could undermine that goal by producing inaccurate information.”
  • “While it is important to understand the subjective patient experience of care, it would be inaccurate to use this information as an objective standard of care. Many patients do not have the medical knowledge to accurately determine when an adverse medical event occurs. If an adverse medical event does occur, there is a likelihood that the patient could mischaracterize it.”
  • “Additionally, we have concerns that such a reporting system could give rise to greater medical malpractice liability insurance costs. This could increase costs and decrease quality of healthcare for patients.”