Online tool helps assess safety procedures

The new patient-safety survey is free, but practices must pay $200 to find out how their scores compare with other groups.

By Kevin B. O’Reilly, AMNews staff.

Three big names in health care are promoting a new assessment tool they say can help physician practices determine how well they are managing crucial areas where gaps in care can harm patients and increase medical liability exposure.

The Medical Group Management Assn., the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, and the Health Research and Educational Trust collaborated to create the Physician Practice Patient Safety Assessment and piloted the tool with 200 practices before making it widely available last fall.

The 80-question assessment was developed with the help of an expert panel of 18 physicians, pharmacists and quality experts. It covers medication safety, handoffs and patient transitions, surgery and invasive procedures, personnel qualifications and competency, patient education and communication, and practice management and culture.

“Many errors are preventable if proper patient safety-centered procedures are used throughout the continuum of care, including in physician practices,” said Terry Hammons, MD, an MGMA senior fellow.

A study released by medical liability insurer ProMutual Group last year found that diagnostic errors accounted for nearly 40% of closed claims analyzed in seven specialties between 2002 and 2004. Experts attribute most of those errors to problems with missed follow-ups and delayed lab reports. Using the new assessment to identify that and other problems, the experts say, could reduce the risk of harm to patients and the risk of lawsuits to physicians.
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