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Proposed CMS Rule Could Put a Stop on Public Reporting of Hospital Infections

Published on Jul 9, 2018 at 3:12 pm in Medical Malpractice.

Over the years, we have discussed many health care related issues on our blog, including those involving medical malpractice. We have also written many posts discussing proposed rules and legislative changes in the health care industry that harm patients, their rights, and their safety. Recently, a new proposed rule change that would put an end to public reporting of certain infections acquired in hospitals has been making headlines, and is being criticized for its potential impact on public safety.

The newly proposed rule change is part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) plan. Under the proposed legislation, federal regulators would no longer report on hospital infections, including serious infections and other accidents and injuries, including:

  • The “super bug” MRSA
  • Post-operative sepsis
  • Surgical site infections
  • Patient injuries / infections ranging from bedsores to respiratory failure post-surgery
  • Never events (preventable medical errors that should never happen)

If the proposed rule is approved and finalized, the CMS website won’t disclose data on infections or safety measures. That’s because doing so would require that data to be part of a program the current Presidential administration states hospitals should no longer use to report safety issues.

Impact on Public Safety

The suggested change has been criticized widely by patient health and safety advocates, many of whom site alarming data on hospital infections and their impact on public safety. As they argue, more than 600,000 hospital patients contract an infection each year in the U.S., and many of those cause profound suffering, long-term injuries, and even death. For example, sepsis alone accounts for 270,000 deaths a year.

With infection rates as concerning as these, and continued concerns over preventable errors, many are troubled by a proposed rule that would reverse course on progress made in fighting these infections and the issues that commonly cause them. As with many preventable injuries or illnesses, public access to information and data is critical to understanding the true scope of a problem, its common causes, and how to best prevent injuries and deaths that could and should be prevented. Advocates are also concerned that approving a change to revert these efforts could prompt further changes that limit transparency moving forward.

Health Care Policies

In the past, we have discussed many proposed ruled that impact federal health care policies. Like many proposed changes before, the new CMS proposed rule is one that fails to take public safety into account, and which is fueled more by corporations, money, and lobbying than real, reasonable concerns for the health of patients. This was precisely the case in recent rule changes that reversed a CMS ban on forced arbitration, allowing nursing homes to include mandatory arbitration clauses in resident contracts. That change, as many argued, tips the scales in favor of corporations, and keeps information about preventable injuries, deaths, and major safety concerns out of the public’s eye.

By passing the new rule, important information about serious infections, as well as serious medical errors and acts of malpractice, would go unreported. The change would also incentivize hospitals to simply not report serious infections and errors, as they are currently required to do so, in order to avoid penalties. For many, these changes are unacceptable not only because they put patients’ lives at risk, but also because they provide fewer opportunities to hold medical providers accountable for errors and negligence.

Fighting for Patient Safety

At Shrager & Sachs, our Philadelphia lawyers are passionate about protecting the rights of victims and families who suffer harm as a result of negligence, including medical negligence. In addition to fighting on behalf of patients and their loved ones following harm caused by medical malpractice, we also believe in the importance of preventing the safety problems that lead to those preventable mistakes and injuries in the first place – often through tougher legislation for things like mandatory reporting requirements. Doing away with those important rules subjects everyone to greater risks, and makes the fight for accountability in cases where infections and errors do occur tougher for victims.

While protests continue and awareness is raised about the new proposed rule, our legal team continues to make ourselves available to victims and families in need. If you wish to discuss a potential medical malpractice or personal injury case, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.

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