Medical errors could be exposed with appeals court decision

Medical errors could be publicly exposed with an upcoming Illinois Appellate Court case decision, reports American Medical News.

The state had sued Walgreens to retrieve incident reports of medication errors. The pharmacy had refused to hand over the reports in 2010, saying they were protected under the federal Patient Safety Act.

After a trial court ruled in favor of Walgreens, the state appealed. Oral arguments are expected to be heard by January 2012.

According to Walgreens, the Act enables medical professionals to voluntarily provide information about errors in a secure environment, information that is used to improve patient safety. However, Illinois state attorneys claim the Act is being applied too broadly, the article notes.

As the first major legal challenge to the confidentiality protections of the Patient Safety Act, the appellate court's ruling could affect healthcare providers--and their efforts to improve patient care--nationwide. With other courts citing the ruling in future legal challenges, "It could create a chain effect all across the country," Ed Rickert, an attorney for Walgreens, told amed news.

The case highlights the issue of healthcare providers not reporting medical errors for fears of retaliation. While the industry awaits the appellate court's decision, a recent study in Pediatrics found that a blame-free, anonymous error reporting system can boost reported mistakes from five to 86 per year on average.

For more information:
- read the amed news article