Rx Error Law Clears Congress—But Will It Work?

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0,0

In a move designed to cut down oncostly medication errors and othertypes of medical mistakes, Congressapproved new legislation designed toencourage pharmacists, physicians,and other health care providers to voluntarilydisclose errors without riskinglitigation or disciplinary action. Underthe new Patient Safety Quality ImprovementAct, health care providerswho furnish information to a governmentdatabase about errors that causelittle or no patient harm will be shieldedfrom penalties.

The law drew praise from the AmericanSociety of Health-System Pharmacists(ASHP), whose officials called thenew system "an important step towardcreating a fail-safe health care system." According to the ASHP officials, it is"essential that pharmacists and otherhealth care providers can share informationwhen an error happens, so thatthe events can be analyzed and preventedfrom occurring again."

Patient rights advocates at the People'sMedical Society, however, raisedconcerns that the new law would havelittle effect on medication errors becausethe reporting procedure is strictlyvoluntary. Without mandatory errordisclosure rules for pharmacists andother health professionals, there willbe little reduction in the medical errorsthat claim thousands of lives annually,the group warned.

Mr. Rankin is a freelance medical writer.