will government changes threaten pennsylvania patients part 2

In our last post, we discussed the proposed merger of the Patient Safety Authority and the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council. Currently, both agencies fall under Pennsylvania’s Department of Health. However, under Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed plan, the two agencies might become one agency.

The governor argues that the proposal could streamline information collection and analysis. In reality, however, many people in the agencies fear that the merger would undermine the effectiveness of the agency. Specifically, people fear that information regarding medical errors — much of which is currently shared voluntarily — would no longer be reported as honestly.

Although many government officials are not concerned, authorities in the hospitals are. Earlier this month, the Hospital Council of Western Pennsylvania sent a letter to one of the senators explaining how the changed organization would have a negative impact on the relationship between hospitals and the government agencies. The letter said, “This would make for a regulatory relationship as opposed to a collaborative one.”

One medical authority who uses data from the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council described the council as “the best state health reporting system in the country.” Although she isn’t certain that the merger would make the council less effective, she raises a valid point:

“Why would you want to possibly jeopardize that?”

In such a complex issue, it can be difficult to tell which side is right. One thing we can be certain of, however, is that no matter the theoretical cost savings, no change that negatively impacts patient safety is a good thing.

At the same time, if consolidating agencies could enable greater oversight and provide enhanced visibility to medical errors — and hopefully decrease the incidence of injury due to medical negligence or malpractice — then patient safety advocates will likely support the proposed change. We will all have to watch to see how this proposal plays out in the weeks and months to come.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Patient safety, cost agencies to move under Health Department,” Steve Twedt, March 14, 2012

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