Balancing Malpractice Liability Risk And Sharing Patient Safety Data

In an era in which patients are gaining more control over their medical data, some hospital groups are fighting in court to retain control of certain patient data in medical malpractice suits. 

Federal and state laws are increasingly conflicting on rights to medical data. Consequently, as a hospital group, you could confront the following dilemma: balancing patient rights to medical data with your data confidentiality rights to promote patient safety. How you proceed, say medical malpractice case advisors, could compromise patient safety. 

Expanding Patient Access to Healthcare Records 

The trend toward patients gaining more control over their medical data appears to be an unstoppable steamroller. Medical apps are handing medical data back to patients to store it, consult it, and even sell it to data aggregators. This anonymous data is then used by the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries to improve patient care and treatments.

Big data is also helping to improve patient safety. Patient errors used to be recorded and then forgotten in the patient's medical file. Hospitals now submit patient errors (with patient identifying information stripped out) to patient safety groups. The collective data is studied to improve patient safety. 

Florida has long been the battlefront state for patients seeking access to these error reports in medical malpractice suits. In 2004, Florida broadened patient access to the adverse medical reports, or error reports, hospitals submit to patient safety groups.

Conflicts With Federal Patient Safety Laws

In a surprising Supreme Court appeal ruling, the highest court in the land has let these patient data rights under state law supersede Federal hospital system rights to confidentiality.  In a widely watched ruling, the Florida law allowing patient access to adverse medical reports in medical malpractice lawsuits was upheld. 

Hospitals have been opposed to handing over medical data to patients related to medical errors. Under the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005 (PSQIA), hospitals voluntarily submit reports on medical errors to patient safety organizations. In exchange, hospitals are guaranteed confidentiality.  

Balancing Patient Safety and Malpractice Liability Risk

But could the liberalization of patient medical records compromise the safety of the healthcare system? If sharing medical error reports increases the liability risk of hospitals in lawsuits, they will have a disincentive for doing so. Fewer hospital participants could lead to more medical safety errors. 

As a hospital group, you need to balance your commitment to improving patient safety with your right to confidentiality over certain medical records. While your inclination may be to withdraw data in some cases, a medical malpractice case advisory service can help you balance these conflicting responsibilities and implement the best practices for your hospital system.