AHA opposes penalty for medical mistakes

The American Hospital Association's President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock came out swinging in a recent USAToday editorial, opposing a health reform law provision that would financially penalize hospitals that report the highest percentage of medical errors.

The new law calls for penalizing one-quarter of hospitals that report the highest share of hospital-associated conditions each year.

"This percentage-based penalty is counterproductive," writes Umbdenstock. "Even if every hospital improves, a quarter of them will be penalized."

He added that the Affordable Care Act would financially penalize a flat percentage of hospitals every year and will discourage the crucial practice of reporting, and learning from, unfortunate events.

While he agrees that hospitals should not be paid when a preventable medical error occurs, he notes that many situations that lead to unwanted patient outcomes are not that simple. "Some result not from an error, but from a series of human actions and inactions, equipment and timing that come together in a perfect storm," he writes.

Umbdenstock cites the performance data hospitals report to the Hospital Compare website as evidence of transparency that helps show where hospitals do better. But researchers have noted that good ratings on process measures or how a procedure was performed do not always translate into better patient outcomes.

To learn more:
- here's Rich Umbdenstock's reaction to a USAToday editorial
- here's the editorial he was reacting to

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