The final word: Commitment to patient safety, quality care brings legislators, physicians together

Thursday, March 01, 2012 12:50 PM
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State Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs
CMS Member and Physician State Sen. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver

On paper, we could hardly seem more different. One of us is a physician and a Democrat who hails from her party’s stronghold of Denver. The other is an attorney and a Republican from western El Paso County, one of the most conservative areas of our state.

Yet when each of us was approached by the Colorado Medical Society and other organizations to sponsor a bill to reform Colorado’s system for professional review (also known as peer review), we enthusiastically agreed.

The reason is simple: Professional review, as it would function if this legislation becomes law, would ensure that Coloradans receive safer, higher-quality and more affordable health care. And that is something that people on both sides of the aisle, across professions, and from all corners of the state should get behind.

As the story on page 9 explains in more detail, House Bill 12-1300 would maintain the confidentiality, privileges and immunities associated with professional review activities for seven years. It would specify sharing of professional review information with entities such as the state Medical and Nursing Boards, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and it would authorize professional review of physician assistants and advanced practice nurses.

By including all these professions, and ensuring these protections, the bill encourages thorough analysis of health care professionals’ performance as well as timely intervention. In other words, it allows you and your colleagues to shine a light on medical errors – not for the purpose of assigning blame, but so that you may learn from what has occurred, improve systems and minimize the likelihood of those errors happening again. It also would encourage physicians to participate as reviewers without worrying about getting tangled up in a lawsuit or hauled into court.

The fact of the matter is, no one is perfect, and systems always stand to be improved.

We ask the unconvinced to consider this scenario: An error occurs during a medical procedure at your local hospital. You are scheduled to undergo the same procedure at the same facility six months or a year down the road. Would you rather Colorado have a professional review system that discourages physicians and other providers from exploring what happened and why? Or would you prefer those involved acknowledge the mistake, scrutinize what happened and figure out ways to reduce the odds it will occur again – before it’s your turn?

We think the choice is obvious and overwhelming, and we are not alone.

The bill has the support of more than two dozen professional organizations, from COPIC to Rocky Mountain Health Plan, the Colorado Nurses Association, Colorado Hospital Association, the Colorado Society of Advanced Practice Nurses and multiple physician societies. That support is particularly meaningful to lawmakers when they are considering any legislation that would protect information, because it indicates that a broad group of people have looked at the issue from different perspectives and concluded that the information is important enough that the protection is necessary.

We commend the Colorado Medical Society for its years-long efforts to improve patient safety, for once again being a convener of key stakeholders, and for taking the initiative and raising this issue in 2012 – well before it was scheduled for review by the General Assembly. We encourage you to contact your lawmakers and urge them to support it.

Every physician, in fact every Coloradan, owes a debt of gratitude to CMS for its work in bringing this legislation to fruition.

This is a well-thought-out piece of legislation that enhances the patient safety – on paper, as well as in practice.

Posted in: Colorado Medicine | Final Word | Initiatives | Advocacy | Patient Safety and Professional Accountability


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