So Congress has finally passed a bill creating a voluntary medical error reporting system. Baby steps six years after To Err Is Human, but I had to turn to Michael Millenson expecting him to be overly cynical. But do I glimpse a softening, or even some hope for real change, in his comment? Here’s what Michael emailed to me:
Congress has taken a step with great symbolic weight but only a very modest practical effect and even more minimal funding. While this, of course, is a specialty of our national legislators, particularly in this era of tight budgets — talk big and carry a small stick — the bottom line is that the preventable deaths and injuries being suffered by tens of thousands of anonymous American hospital patients every year doesn’t push very many political buttons. If a majority of both Congress wasn’t comprised of middle-aged men and women with elderly parents, we might not have gotten any legislation at all. Still, the fact that Congress could actually pass a bill related to medical errors sends an important message to health care providers that real oversight from someone outside the industry has finally arrived.