A landmark New Jersey law that increases public disclosure of major preventable medical errors and prohibits charges for certain medical expenses related to those mistakes has hospitalists poised to take a leadership role in patient-safety efforts.
The legislation allows the state to release hospital-specific data on 14 medical mistakes considered by the federal government to be most preventable. It also bans hospitals from charging patients or insurers for follow-up medical costs related to the errors, including pressure ulcers, DVT, and catheter-associated urinary tract infections.
“It’s hard to argue the New Jersey legislation doesn’t make sense,” says hospitalist Niraj Sehgal, MD, MPH, associate chair for quality and safety in the Department of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco. “After all, if I had the wrong limb operated on, I certainly wouldn’t expect to pay for the subsequent care needs, and nor should our system.”
Dr. Sehgal expects more states to follow New Jersey’s lead, a likely outcome given the fact the AARP is calling the Garden State measure “a national landmark.” The legislation also dovetails with the “no pay for errors” initiative from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Many hospitalists think HM groups are best positioned to spearhead quality and patient-safety efforts tied to the legislation. Hospitalist Vincent Barba, MD, FACP, FHM, medical director for quality improvement with University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark, says HM leaders just have to seize the opportunity.
“Be the home team,” Dr. Barba says. “Step up. Take a leading role.”