Newspaper investigation serves as catalyst for stepped up hospital reporting requirements

Nevada hospitals will no longer be able to get away with under-reporting or mis-reporting sentinel event data. Nevada lawmakers unanimously approved two draft bills Tuesday to require state hospitals to report, by facility, the preventable infections and injuries patients suffer under their care, the Las Vegas Sun reports. The move was prompted by an ongoing Sun investigation into harm to patients at Las Vegas hospitals.

Hospitals have been able to fly under the radar up until now, because sentinel events--those unexpected incidents that harm or cause risk of injury in a hospital--have been reported as a state total. As a result, there was no way for consumers to compare hospitals' patient safety records, because the numbers weren't broken out by hospital.

The Sun identified 969 cases of harm recorded in Las Vegas hospital billing records in 2008 and 2009.

A draft law involving infections will step up the reporting requirement. The law would mandate that individual hospitals report about information on certain infections to the National Healthcare Safety Network, run by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bobbette Bond, who is executive director of the Nevada Health Care Policy Group, said the proposed bills represent progress. "It pushes improvement forward," she told the Sun. "If you don't have any public reporting, you don't feel that pressure of the hospitals competing with each other. Competition drives change."

Before stories from Sun's investigation began to trickle out, Nevada Hospital Association chief lobbyist Bill Welch was certain that the state's hospitals had always complied with the law by reporting every sentinel event. Speaking with legislators on Tuesday, however, he was less sure. "I can't say, nor will I say, that we are absolutely confident that every individual incident that should have been reported was reported," Welch said.

To learn more:
- read this Las Vegas Sun article
- here's the exposé that started it all
- sort through the rest of the Sun's findings 

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