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Original Contribution
March 16, 2005

Error Reporting and Disclosure Systems: Views From Hospital Leaders

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Institute for Health Policy, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston (Dr Weissman and Ms Feibelmann); Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass (Dr Weissman); Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Mass (Drs Epstein and Schneider); Division of General Medicine and Primary Care, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Mass (Drs Epstein and Schneider); Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Boston (Mss Annas and Ridley); Center for Survey Research, University of Massachusetts, Boston (Dr Clarridge); Massachusetts Hospital Association, Burlington (Ms Kirle); and Center for Statistical Sciences and Applied Mathematics, Brown University, Providence, RI (Dr Gatsonis).

JAMA. 2005;293(11):1359-1366. doi:10.1001/jama.293.11.1359

Context The Institute of Medicine has recommended establishing mandatory error reporting systems for hospitals and other health settings.

Objective To examine the opinions and experiences of hospital leaders with state reporting systems.

Design and Setting Survey of chief executive and chief operating officers (CEOs/COOs) from randomly selected hospitals in 2 states with mandatory reporting and public disclosure, 2 states with mandatory reporting without public disclosure, and 2 states without mandatory systems in 2002-2003.

Main Outcome Measures Perceptions of the effects of mandatory systems on error reporting, likelihood of lawsuits, and overall patient safety; attitudes regarding release of incident reports to the public; and likelihood of reporting incidents to the state or to the affected patient based on hypothetical clinical vignettes that varied the type and severity of patient injury.

Results Responses were received from 203 of 320 hospitals (response rate = 63%). Most CEOs/COOs thought that a mandatory, nonconfidential system would discourage reporting of patient safety incidents to their hospital’s own internal reporting system (69%) and encourage lawsuits (79%) while having no effect or a negative effect on patient safety (73%). More than 80% felt that the names of both the hospital and the involved professionals should be kept confidential, although respondents from states with mandatory public disclosure systems were more willing than respondents from the other states to release the hospital name (22% vs 4%-6%, P = .005). Based on the vignettes, more than 90% of hospital leaders said their hospital would report incidents involving serious injury to the state, but far fewer would report moderate or minor injuries, even when the incident was of sufficient consequence that they would tell the affected patient or family.

Conclusions Most hospital leaders expressed substantial concerns about the impact of mandatory, nonconfidential reporting systems on hospital internal reporting, lawsuits, and overall patient safety. While hospital leaders generally favor disclosure of patient safety incidents to involved patients, fewer would disclose incidents involving moderate or minor injury to state reporting systems.