As per the Associated Press, March 5, 2006, a bill has been sent to the governor of the State of Wisconsin that would allow health care providers to investigate medical errors, however, those investigative results would not be available to the public.
Hospitals argue that such a bill will enable them to vigorously investigate medical errors and get to the root cause without having to be concerned that their investigation will be used against them in a malpractice claim.
Conversely, plaintiff’s attorneys want to know just how long a particular situation has been in place and what, if anything, has the hospital done to correct the problem.
The new bill, which is supposedly being forwarded to the governor, was co-written by the Wisconsin Hospital Association and it applies not only to hospitals, but also to nursing homes and other health care providers.
“Allowing internal confidentiality is a key step in improving quality, said Anne-Marie Audet, a physician and vice president for quality at the Commonwealth Fund, which funds research on health policy.” “The only way you can fix problems is if you are able to identify them,” she said.
However, at least one trial attorney opines that the proposed legislation gives health care providers too much protection, and it keeps vital information from being presented to a jury.
The bill would still let people see their own medical records if they sued a hospital or doctor for malpractice. However, if there is a claim that the patient was harmed by medical malpractice, this law would prevent them from delving into the records of the providers to see if the malpractice was an ongoing problems, and the length of time it existed.
The Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services has criticized the bill, saying it could hinder the department’s ability to detect fraud and ensure patient safety. However, as per the article “Leo Brideau, chief executive of Columbia St. Mary’s health care system, said the privacy shield will encourage organizations to analyze adverse events so health care providers can learn and improve.” “That is very difficult to do if you are worrying that everything that you do is discoverable in courts,” Brideau said.
This appears to be another step in the curtaining of patients’ rights. From my own perspective, if I get a serious infection in a hospital, and I sue, I want the records of the hospital as to how many other people reports similar infections and what has been done, if anything, to stop the problem. This bill, if signed by the governor, would not let me gain access to those records – at least in Wisconsin.
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