Without evidence of benefit, an intervention should not be presumed to be beneficial or safe.

- Rogue Medic

What if confidential information, provided to protect patients, were no longer confidential?

The Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act, enacted in 2005, encourages pharmacies, hospitals and physicians to report medical error information to patient safety organizations, the details of which are shielded from public disclosure.[1]

The purpose of this law is to encourage people to report problems without fear that the information will be used against them.

If people contribute information about errors, for the purpose of improving patient safety, but the information can be used to accuse them of wrongdoing, what will happen to the amount of information collected to improve patient safety?

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation was investigating three pharmacists from Walgreen Company. The regulators apparently felt that the law does not apply to them. They seem to have the attitude that laws are for other people, but not for them. In 2010, the state regulators filed subpoenas for the confidential documents. Walgreens refused to comply, citing the law protecting the information. The court decided in favor of Walgreens. The state appealed. On May 29, 2012 the appeal was turned down. There is still the possibility of an appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.

If the state regulators are supposed to be acting to protect patients, should we trust any of their other decisions – decisions that are supposed to be to protect patients.

If a further appeal leads to the release of this information, will anyone report any error that might remotely have a negative effect on them?

“The Patient Safety Act provides that ‘patient safety work product shall be privileged and shall not be subject to discovery in connection with a federal, state or local civil, criminal or administrative proceeding,’ ” the court said. Walgreens “established that the only documents responsive to petitioner’s subpoenas’ narrow scope of incident reports were [such] reports.[1]

Probably not all errors are due to simple individual carelessness or negligence. These regulators seem to be trying to make sure that they have a lot of errors to deal with.

If these regulators were trying to prevent infestation with rats, would they first go after the rat catchers?

Image credit.


[1] Lawsuit challenging protected medical error data dismissed by state appeals court – Judges said an administrative investigation is not grounds for releasing health information created under a patient safety law.
By Alicia Gallegos, Posted June 15, 2012.

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