"Adding the Consumer Voice to Quality Improvement" by John McDonough

This article is more than 14 years old.

There’s growing and undeniable momentum to address deficiencies in healthcare quality in the US and in Massachusetts. Just in the past month, Medicare announced that beginning 10/08, it will no longer pay hospitals for care related to hospital infections and so-called “never events;” the MA Department of Public Health issued a new report on hospital infections and unveiled their new initiative to publicly report infection rates to the public; and the MA Quality and Cost Council is advancing an ambitious quality agenda.

We know the overwhelming majority of doctors, nurses, hospitals and other providers are committed to quality care and want to provide only the highest quality care. We know most errors are related to system problems, not individual behavior. And we know that health care too often needlessly harms patients and falls far short of the Institute of Medicine’s standards that care be: patient centered, timely, safe, efficient, effective, and equitable.

A voice often missing from conversations about quality is the consumer’s. At Health Care for All, we have created a Consumer Health Quality Council to give a voice to consumers about quality. Council members have been harmed and have seen family members suffer because of infections, misdiagnoses, miscommunication, and other medical errors. They are motivated by their personal experiences not to sue, but to advocate for better public policies to ensure quality care for all MA residents.

The Council is working hard to support a bill to be heard by the Legislature’s Committee on Public Health next week (9/12, 10am, State House Hearing Room A-1).

The bill, HB 2226/SB 1277 (lead sponsors are Sen. Richard Moore and Rep. Denise Provost), contains six ideas to improve health care quality in Massachusetts:

* Public reporting of hospital infection rates and a mandate to reduce rates to zero or as close to zero as practicable;
* Public reporting of never events (e.g.: wrong site surgery, wrong person surgery, leaving an object in a patient, serious medication errors);
* Allowing providers to apologize without the apology being used against them medical liability action;
* Requiring providers to disclose an adverse event to a patient;
* Requiring hospitals to establish Patient and Family Councils;
* Requiring hospitals to establish Rapid Response Teams that can be activated by patients and family members.

You can learn more about the bill here. Contact us and your Rep/Senator if these issues are important to you.

John E McDonough - - is executive director of Health Care For All.

This program aired on September 6, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.