President signs law creating patient safety database

September 1, 2005

President Bush signed into law a bill aimed at encouraging the voluntary reporting of medical errors to a national database.

President Bush signed into law a bill aimed at encouraging the voluntary reporting of medical errors to a national database. Under the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005 (S. 554), health-care providers would voluntarily report errors to independent patient safety organizations, certified by the Department of Health and Human Services. These organizations would then compile the data into a national database. The information in the database would be used to make recommendations on preventing medical errors.

The bill also addresses confidentiality concerns from reporting medical errors, according to American Health Line (7/28/05). The database would not identify specific patients, health-care providers, or those who report errors. Any disclosure of this information is punishable by a $10,000 fine per violation. The bill also prohibits employers from taking retaliatory action against those who report errors.

Additionally, the bill stipulates that the information in the database could not be used as evidence in any litigation, nor by an accrediting body or regulator to take action against a provider. Only a judge in a criminal proceeding could allow the reported information to be used in a trial-but only if the information contains evidence of a criminal act, is pertinent to the proceeding, or cannot reasonably be obtained from another source.