Federal program would help consumers report medical mistakes, flaws

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Government officials are developing a program that would make it easier for patients and their families to report medical mistakes made by healthcare providers.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality are hoping to gain approval from the Obama administration for a pilot project that would help consumers report medical mistakes straight to the federal government, the New York Times reports. Consumers would be able to report the mistakes through online and telephone questionnaires. Informational fliers about the project would be distributed in physician offices, hospitals and pharmacies, under the AHRQ program.

Officials hope that consumers will report issues such as medication errors, uncommunicative doctors and nurses, poor collaboration between providers, infections, failure of clinicians to disclose a mistake, unsanitary conditions and other concerns.

Researchers from the RAND Corporation and the ECRI Institute would investigate the claims reported by consumers, the newspaper reported.

“Patient reports could complement and enhance reports from providers and thus produce a more complete and accurate understanding of the prevalence and characteristics” of medical errors, AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D. said.

A spokeswoman for the American Hospital Association praised the idea, as did consumer groups. The American Medical Association said it needed more time to review it. Some physicians cautioned that patient complaints might not accurately reflect conditions they think they are observing. It is not clear, based on calls to AHRQ, the extent to which this program would impact long-term care facilities.