One year after the Patient Safety Act was passed

November 1, 2006

When the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act was signed into law, there were high expectations that it would transform health care by creating patient-safety organizations to gather and analyze adverse reports to prevent future mishaps. Since then, the 1-year-old law has yet to be implemented. What's causing the delay? It seems there are several factors to blame.

When the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act was signed into law, there were high expectations that it would transform health care by creating patient-safety organizations to gather and analyze adverse reports to prevent future mishaps. Since then, the 1-year-old law has yet to be implemented. What's causing the delay? It seems there are several factors to blame.

For one, the agency charged with implementing much of the law, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), must now become a regulator. In addition, writing the regulations for implementing the law is a complex task: The AHRQ must protect public and private rights while allowing for data to be shared without disclosing information that could be embarrassing to, or used in lawsuits against, health-care professionals. Moreover, since the AHRQ is charged with creating a new way of operating, it still must define what patient-safety organizations are, how they will collect information on adverse events, how they will use the data collected, how feedback will be provided, and how this feedback will be shared.

Yet despite the complexity, progress is being made. Bill Munier, director of AHRQ's Center for Quality Information and Patient Safety, told Modern Healthcare (7/24/2006), that regulations will be released by the end of the year for public comment. Soon after, the release of final regulations is expected.