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AHRQ to participate in new HHS task force on patient safety

HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson recently announced the formal establishment of a new Patient Safety Task Force within the Department of Health and Human Services. The task force will coordinate a joint effort among several HHS agencies to improve existing systems to collect data on patient safety. The Secretary charged the task force with working closely with the States and private sector in this effort.

The Federal agencies leading this effort include the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA).

The goal of this task force is to identify the data that health care providers, States, and others need to collect to improve patient safety. To start this process, the task force will award a contract to develop a detailed plan on how to integrate the existing reporting systems in a way that minimizes burden, provides those who must submit reports an opportunity to learn, and improves the safety of health care services.

CDC, FDA, and HCFA presently operate a number of systems to collect information that helps to monitor health care safety; compliance with existing regulations on blood products, devices, and drugs; and the safety of patients in Medicare-funded institutions. Secretary Thompson has charged the task force with studying how to implement a user-friendly, Internet-based patient safety reporting format. This will enable faster cross-matching and electronic analysis of data and more rapid responses to patient safety problems.

The task force held an April 23-24 summit, in Reston, VA, on the collection and use of patient safety data. The summit was attended by representatives of medical professional organizations, State health departments and licensure boards, accrediting bodies, patient advocacy groups, and others with an interest in patient safety reporting. These groups will be providing ongoing input to the task force on how to enhance the value of the data collected without creating any new Federal reporting requirements.

HHS' Fiscal Year 2002 budget proposal includes $72 million, an increase of $15 million over Fiscal Year 2001, for efforts to improve patient safety and reduce adverse events.

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