Calls grow for patient safety board, but industry influence may stand in the way

Patient safety advocates are urging for the creation of a "National Patient Safety Board" for the healthcare industry to better learn from and prevent medical errors, but they fear current proposals would not give such a board sufficient oversight, according to a June 5 report from KFF Health News. 

Two measures to establish a national safety board — a bill proposed in the House in December and a measure that would create such a board via executive order — are loosely modeled off the National Transportation Safety Board, which has been credited with increasing safety in aviation. When an incident happens, the agency probes why it occurred and recommends steps to prevent future issues. The NTSB is able to subpoena witnesses and evidence and publish accident reports. 

In the bill filed in the House, a patient safety board would need permission from healthcare organizations to investigate safety events and would not be able to name providers in reports. Because of this and the healthcare industry's powerful influence, safety advocates worry the effort would not create enough accountability to drive significant improvements. 

However, some experts have said protecting the identity of healthcare organizations and details of safety events could boost voluntary reporting. In any case, many patient safety advocates are hopeful the bill that would create a patient safety board will move things in the right direction by speeding up the adoption of surveillance technology and establishing a portal for anyone to report events, according to KFF Health News

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