AARP applauds the U.S. Senate for passing the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005 (S. 544/H.R. 3205), and looks forward to a favorable vote that is expected soon in the U.S. House of Representatives, as well. We commend the many members of Congress who worked so diligently to craft legislation that has generated such strong bipartisan support.
The legislation is a good first step in addressing Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommendations for reducing preventable medical errors. IOM estimates that some 98,000 people die annually from preventable medical errors, making it one of our nation’s leading causes of death. Older patients are particularly vulnerable to medical errors. An AARP Public Policy Institute paper found at least 6 percent of hospitalized Medicare patients suffer a medical injury serious enough to result in measurable disability or to prolong their hospital stay — twice the rate of younger patients.
The Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act begins to address this problem by establishing a system for voluntary reporting of errors to Patient Safety Organizations (PSOs) that could analyze data and help reduce errors. The legislation makes these reports confidential because of liability concerns, while continuing to guarantee access to all information otherwise available today.
While the legislation is a good start, the IOM has issued recommendations that go farther, which AARP also supports. These include mandatory reporting, public disclosure of serious errors, and tests of alternatives to the tort system for medical malpractice.
We look forward to working with Congress to ensure prompt enactment of the legislation and to take other steps that can help improve the quality and safety of health care for all Americans.