NAHQ urges reform on quality, error reporting

By Kelsey Brimmer
10:45 AM
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In a live webcast Tuesday, the National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ) called on healthcare organizations to step up quality and error reporting.

In order to strengthen patient safety protection, minimize medical errors and enhance the overall quality of patient care, healthcare organizations should expect clinical staff to be accountable for achieving meaningful quality improvements and reporting potential safety risks, said Susan Goodwin and Cynthia Barnard during NAHQ’s announcement yesterday of its publication, “Call to Action: Safeguarding the Integrity of Healthcare Quality and Safety Systems.”

[See also: CHIME pushes for untangling of quality reporting.]

“In any given situation where quality or patient safety is called into question, the process by which an issue is raised is considered as important as the query itself. Not every concern about patient safety or quality of patient care will ultimately be deemed valid, but every reported concern deserves serious consideration,” said Goodwin, assistant vice president of Hospital Corporation of America and NAHQ’s immediate past president.

The NAHQ's "Call to Action" publication provides detailed recommendations for adopting best practices to enhance provider institution quality, improve ongoing safety reporting and protect staff.

NAHQ collaborated with several national healthcare professional organizations in developing the recommendations in the publication, including the American College of Physician Executives, the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems, the National Patient Safety Foundation and The Joint Commission.

Some of the NAHQ’s recommendations for healthcare organizations include educating employees continually about expectations for timely reporting of quality and safety concerns, as well as establishing explicit policies that support error reporting and penalize reprisals in response to reporting.

[See also: IOM report: Informatics, transparency and data to fix healthcare crisis.]

Other recommendations are to establish quality improvements so that data collected are applied to foster improvements in patient outcome, and immediately investigate and respond to any adverse event or concern.

As new financial models, like accountable care organizations, tie quality outcomes to payment become more prevalent, improving quality and error reporting is not only good medical practice, said Barnard, the NAHQ volunteer responsible for leading the work on the “Call to Action, it’s good business.

Barnard, who is the director of quality strategies at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, also noted that many health insurers are linking payments to quality outcomes and will withhold reimbursement for hospital-acquired conditions.

“We hope this action by payer groups helps eliminate incentives in healthcare organizations that impede efforts to improve patient safety and quality,” she said. “It certainly raises the stakes for reporting less than optimal outcomes.”