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USA: House Bill establishes Federal Agency dedicated to patient safety

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Nanette Barragán, US representative for California’s 44th Congressional District, has announced the introduction of new legislation intended to establish a National Patient Safety Board (NPSB) as a non-punitive, collaborative, independent agency to address safety in healthcare. This landmark legislation is a critical step to improve safety for patients and healthcare providers by coordinating existing efforts within a single independent agency solely focused on addressing safety in health care through data-driven solutions.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, medical error was the third leading cause of death in the United States, with conservative estimates of more than 250,000 patients dying annually from preventable medical harm and costs of more than $17 billion to the U.S. healthcare system. Recent data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that patient safety worsened during the pandemic.

The NPSB’s solutions would focus on problems like medication errors, wrong-site surgeries, hospital-acquired infections, errors in pathology labs, and issues in transition from acute to long-term care. By leveraging interdisciplinary teams of researchers and new technology, including automated systems with AI algorithms, the NPSB’s solutions would help relieve the burden of data collection at the frontline, while also detecting precursors to harm.

A coalition of leaders in health care, technology, business, academia, and other industries has united to call for the establishment of an NPSB. 

“We have seen many valiant efforts to reduce the problem of preventable medical error, but most of these have relied on the frontline workforce to do the work or take extraordinary precautions,” said Karen Wolk Feinstein, PhD, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative and spokesperson for the NPSB Advocacy Coalition. “The pandemic has now made things worse as weary, frustrated, and stressed nurses, doctors, and technicians leave clinical care, resulting in a cycle where harm becomes more prevalent. Many organizations have united to advance a national home for patient safety to promote substantive solutions, including those that deploy modern technologies to make safety as autonomous as possible.”

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Source: Business Wire, 8 December 2022

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