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AHRQ Clarifies Immunity Provisions of the Patient Safety Act

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s (AHRQ’s) Office for Civil Rights released guidance to clarify questions healthcare organizations may have on the immunity provisions of the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005.

The purpose of the Patient Safety Act is to establish a system where healthcare providers can voluntarily collect patient safety data, known as the patient safety work product (PSWP), to send to patient safety organizations (PSOs) for analysis and feedback. This data is protected against discovery procedures in malpractice and wrongful death suits against hospitals. However, adverse event data collected through mandatory reporting requirements, such as through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), are not protected through the Patient Safety Act. AHRQ noted some providers have classified information as PSWP when it does not meet the definition, then refused to disclose the information.

The new AHRQ guidance clarifies what data are and are not considered PSWPs, when information can be removed, and clarifies that patient medical records, billing, and discharge information are not protected. AHRQ also developed an educational video called Working with a PSO: One Approach that can help providers set up a patient safety evaluation system when working with a PSO.