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Court Rulings Could Squelch Reports of Errors

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, October 30, 2012

Providers may be more likely to keep quiet about near misses or medical mishaps if Kentucky lower court rulings, which hospital lawyers say violate the essence of a critical federal statute, are allowed to stand.

That's the view of the Kentucky Hospital Association, which represents 92 non-federal acute care hospitals in the state, and the American Hospital Association, who are together fighting the rulings with an appeal to the Kentucky State Supreme Court.

The issue centers around the intent of the federal Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005. Implemented in 2009, the statute offers hospitals and their providers protection from litigation discovery for any safety or mishap information classified as "patient safety work product (PSWP)," as long as the hospital collects that information within the framework of a Patient Safety Organization, which the act specified and defined.

The idea was that doctors, nurses or others who witnessed near misses or medical mishaps, or collected data about such incidents, would be more likely to productively use that information to prevent further mishaps if they didn't have to worry it would go public when lawyers try to sue hospitals and doctors on behalf of litigious patients.

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