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The premier resource for hospital professionals from Relias Media, the trusted source for healthcare information and continuing education.

Landmark legal challenge for federal patient safety law

Patient safety and quality experts have their eyes on Illinois, where the first legal challenge to the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act will be heard by the state’s appellate court in early 2012.

The PSQIA was established in 2005 and is a voluntary reporting system for patient and health care safety information. Federal confidentiality and privacy provisions are in place to protect information and encourage more reporting of errors. Patient safety organizations were created to collect and analyze the data to reduce medical errors. (Read the statute and its provisions here.)

The Illinois case was sparked by an investigation in 2010 by the state’s Department of Professional and Financial Regulation into alleged medication errors from three Walgreens pharmacists. The department subpoenaed Walgreens for documents related to the errors and the company refused, citing privilege under the PSQIA. A trial court agreed with Walgreens, and the state has appealed that decision. Read more about the Illinois case here.

The effects of the decision by the Illinois case will have far-reaching effects on the statute. Legal and patient safety experts say a decision overturning the lower court’s ruling could throw the PSQIA in jeopardy. "The whole purpose of the is to allow a free flow of information where providers voluntarily disclose information about errors in an environment that's protected," Walgreens attorney Ed Rickert told American Medical News. "If a court were to rule the Patient Safety Act doesn't really protect this type of data, the whole purpose of the federal law ends up going out the window."

Oral arguments in the case are expected around January 2012. Stay tuned…