Public data vital to making gains in care

November 3, 2009

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IN HIS Oct. 26 op-ed “Hospitals wage war against patient falls,’’ Douglas Brown writes that earlier this year, the state issued its first public report on “serious reportable events.’’ Health Care For All applauds the public reporting of these events, often referred to as “never events’’ because they should never happen to patients while they are in the hospital. Falls causing death or serious injury are one of those events.

As consumer advocates, we agree with Brown that the state is undertaking a laudable effort, and disagree with him about eliminating public reporting of falls as “never events.’’ Hospitals throughout the Commonwealth have made systemic improvements to prevent patients from suffering from serious reportable events, including falls. Milton Hospital, as mentioned in the state’s report, started hourly rounds to check on patients’ needs and assist them if they need to go to the bathroom or elsewhere, in order to prevent falls.

The National Quality Forum includes falls on its list of very serious events that can be prevented. Public reporting gives patients important information so that they can be fully engaged in their health care while it also leads to further improvement efforts at hospitals. Brown himself writes, “Through better understanding, we will continue to make strides in prevention.’’ Preventing falls and other serious events must involve fully informing both consumers and providers.

Deborah W. Wachenheim, Health quality manager Health Care for All Boston

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