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OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill. -- The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations this week applauded the U.S. Senate's passage of the bipartisan Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act.
"This brings us one step closer to what we hope will become a major victory for America's patients, health care professionals, and healthcare organizations," says Dennis S. O'Leary, MD, president of the Joint Commission. "Allowing healthcare errors and serious events to be reported in a voluntary and confidential manner, without the threat of legal repercussions, will provide new opportunities for all of us to learn from mistakes and actively pursue specific improvements in patient safety."
The Joint Commission, an active proponent of the patient safety legislation, congratulated the Senate leadership for working together to pass the bill. "The single most important thing Congress can do to enhance patient safety is to enact this legislation," says O'Leary. "The legislative language strikes the right balance between assuring patient and public access to information they are entitled to receive, and creating a safe harbor for other sensitive information that relates to individual patient care incidents."
The Joint Commission first urged Congress to pass legislation similar to this bill in 1997. In 2000, the Joint Commission led the establishment of a coalition of leading healthcare organizations to encourage Congress to enact patient safety legislation.
The Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act would toward the goal of improving patient safety and healthcare quality establish a system for reporting and analyzing health care errors and adverse events in an environment that is free from blame. Such a culture allows organizations to explore in depth what happened, why it happened, and what steps need to be taken to avoid such errors from ever occurring again. An environment that facilitates the open flow of critical information is essential to learning.
The House of Representatives passed a similar bill in 2003. The Joint Commission looks forward to an expeditious and successful conference between the House and Senate followed by President Bush's sign-off on this bedrock initiative to improve the safety of health care for all patients.