New Jersey Mandates Fuller Hospital Error Disclosures

September 1, 2009

New Jersey hospitals will soon have to make public more detailed information on medical errors.

The legislation — which also bars hospitals from charging insurers or patients for procedures to correct certain medical mistakes or hospital-acquired conditions — was signed into law Monday by Gov. Jon S. Corzine.

Proponents say it will allow the public to make more informed health care choices and entice poorer performing hospitals to improve patient safety, though critics say medical mistakes are not always the hospital’s fault.

“Everybody needs a report card to see how they are performing _ I get one from the public every two years when I run for election, and the hospitals will benefit from one as well” Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, D-Turnersville, said Friday. He sponsored the measure along with colleagues Linda Greenstein, D-Hamilton, Lou Greenwald, D-Voorhees, Nilsa Cruz Perez, D-Barrington, and Herb Conaway, D-Delanco.

“This (legislation) helps (hospitals) get better by reporting their errors and forcing them to look inward, to see why they may be doing well in some areas, but not in others,” Moriarty said. “Consumers deserve meaningful health quality information, and that’s what this law will give them.”

The measure requires the Health and Senior Services Department to publish how often certain egregious errors — such as operating on the wrong body part or leaving a sponge or instrument inside a patient’s body — occur at each hospital. Health care facilities already report preventable medical mistakes, but the state has published only the number of errors, not the data for individual hospitals.

Lawmakers backing the changes say more transparency is needed.

“People can find out all sorts of safety information about cars and household appliances. They should be able to access that same information about hospitals,” Greenstein said.

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