Feedback Gone Wild?
Last week I read an article and now I find that I just can't get it off my mind. It announced a new government "project" initiated by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The agency is seeking approval from the White House to begin setting up a system for consumers to report "medical mistakes" and "unsafe practices." The purpose is to promote patient safety and it will include hospitals, doctors, nurses and pharmacists.
Reports of incidents will be gathered via kiosks in hospitals and clinics, and eventually on a website or by telephone. Information can be entered by either a patient or his or her relative. In addition to the details of the "event," patients will also be asked "why" they believe the mistake happened. They will also fill out a questionnaire indicating what they believe to have been the possible contributing causes. These include:
"A doctor, nurse or other health care provider did not communicate well with the patient or the patient's family."
"A healthcare provider didn't respect the patient's race, language or culture."
"A healthcare provider didn't seem to care about the patient."
"A healthcare provider was too busy."
"A healthcare provider didn't spend enough time with the patient."
"Healthcare providers failed to work together."
"Healthcare providers were not aware of care received someplace else."
Now I don't want to go all conspiracy theory here, but to be honest this really creeps me out. On the surface they certainly say all the right things to make it sound like a good idea. Supporters argue that no mechanism exists for consumers and that more information is needed in order to research medical mistakes.
Really? Everywhere I have ever worked (which includes jails and prisons) has a system in place for patients to report a problem. Hospitals and clinics routinely conduct patient satisfaction surveys. And how many accrediting bodies and licensing boards are we already accountable to?
I am instinctively uncomfortable with the idea of the government collecting information on anyone, especially information that seems to rely heavily on patient perceptions. I am also suspicious about where this could lead. In the future, could these reports be tied to reimbursement or our malpractice insurance? And finally, to bring us back to my usual topics in this blog, which are jobs and employment, am I crazy to wonder how this information could be used to influence hiring? I welcome your thoughts.