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ACP-ASIM Pressroom

ACP-ASIM Makes Recommendations for Improving Safety in Health Care System

College Calls Safety Problems in Current System 'Unacceptable'

January 27, 2000

(Washington, DC): Calling the current safety problems in the health care system 'unacceptable,' the American College of Physicians - American Society of Internal Medicine (ACP-ASIM) made a series of recommendations for improving patient safety in testimony submitted to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP). Similar testimony is being provided to other congressional committees.

The HELP Committee held the hearings in response to a recent Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System, that highlighted wide-ranging problems in the health care system that sometimes lead to patient injury and death.

The College's recommendations included:

  • Creating a Center for Patient Safety, as recommended by the IOM. The College emphasized that such a center should have secure and adequate funding to set national goals, evaluate progress, and develop and coordinate a research agenda to achieve improvements in patient safety. If such a Center is established within the federal government, the ACP-ASIM urged that it be housed within a non-regulatory agency, such as the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality.
  • While agreeing in principle with the IOM's call for mandatory reporting of major errors (i.e. those that result in death or injury to a patient), the College urged Congress and federal agencies not to define reporting requirements too broadly to include other types of errors. Broad mandatory reporting requirements could be excessively burdensome to institutions and individual physicians and undermine the willingness of health care professionals to participate in voluntary programs to prevent errors before they occur.
  • Voluntary reporting of incidents that do not result in fatalities or major errors should be instituted. However, data confidentiality is essential to ensure that events involving medical errors or other incidents adversely affecting patient safety are reported and acted upon. The confidentiality of reported data must be protected so that physicians and other health care professionals are encouraged to report all adverse incidents without fear that their cooperation will increase their exposure to law suits for professional liability or other sanctions.

The College also applauded President Clinton's December 7, 1999, announcement that he had signed an executive order directing a task force to analyze the IOM report and address ways to implement IOM's recommendations within 60 days.

"ACP-ASIM is strongly supportive of the recommendations of the IOM report," said Whitney Addington, MD, FACP. "The College agrees that far too many preventable errors are committed that do not get reported and that solutions are needed to improve the quality and safety of patient care. The College applauds the prompt initiatives instituted by the President looks forward to working with Congress in addressing issues requiring legislative action."

ACP-ASIM is the nation's largest medical specialty organization and the second largest physician group. Membership comprises more than 115,000 internal medicine physicians and medical students. Internists are the major providers of medical care to adults in America and treat more Medicare patients than any other medical specialists.

[ Note to Editors: A full copy of the ACP-ASIM's testimony is available online ]


Jack E. Pope, ACP-ASIM Washington Office, 202-261-4556

Page updated: 11-03-03

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