March 2000 AAOS Report

AAOS tells Congress about 'Sign Your Site' to prevent errors

"The AAOS shares the concern of Congress that medical errors must be eliminated and for the past several years has undertaken several major initiatives to ensure patient safety," Academy President Robert D. D'Ambrosia, MD, said in a letter mailed to all members of Congress last month. Dr. D'Ambrosia was responding to the heightened congressional interest in medical errors, following a report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) that 44,000 to 98,000 Americans die each year because of medical errors. He pointed out that in 1997, the AAOS created a task force to examine surgical errors and recommend prevention safeguards, which lead to the development of a "Sign Your Site" protocol in an effort to eliminate wrong-site surgery. Also, the AAOS Committee on Professional Liability has conducted a series of closed-claim professional liability insurance studies through on-site review of the records of insurance companies. Accompanying his letter was a statement that AAOS submitted to the House Subcommittee on Health of the Committee on Ways and Means, which held a hearing on the issue in February. Responding to IOM's recommendations for voluntary and mandatory reporting of medical errors, the statement said AAOS believes that "policies must first determine by supporting research, whether and how current medical error reporting programs, as well as prevention initiatives, have led to reduction in medical errors. Access to medical error data under the current liability system must be carefully and thoroughly analyzed and mechanisms for reporting must ensure patient and provider confidentiality and expand peer review liability protections. If new reporting requirements, whether mandatory or voluntary, are legislated, then the approach should encourage open and candid discussions and disclosures, through nonpunitive mechanisms for reporting that ensure patient and provider confidentiality and expand peer review."

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