A prominent elder advocacy group has come forward this week asking that specific data regarding preventable hospital errors be made available to the public.

According to the AARP, New Jersey residents have been kept in the dark as to the quality of their local healthcare providers. Current patient safety regulations (namely the Patient Safety Act), only requires the state to report errors as a whole, rather than specifically name the individual hospital offenders.

However, the AARP of New Jersey has called upon the department of Health and Senior Services to break this information down by hospital so patients can assess for themselves the quality of their local health care facilities.

Not surprisingly, the New Jersey Hospital Association opposes the release of such information.

Fortunately, the battle for specific disclosure has now made it’s way to the New Jersey state legislature. Last session, a bill requiring the disclosure hospital-specific errors passed the Assembly but expired without gaining approval from the Senate. Identical bills have been re-introduced to both chambers.

Why hospital-specific reporting matters in New Jersey

According to a recent HealthGrades study, New Jersey ranks 51st (fifty states and the District of Columbia) or dead last in patient safety incidents. This same study also reveals that in 2004 alone, 195,000 patients in the US died as a result of a preventable medical error.

Clearly, these statistic show that the current reporting methods under the Patient Safety Act are not effective in deterring medical mistakes—especially in New Jersey.

However, hospital-specific reporting for medical mistakes will improve the overall quality of healthcare in New Jersey. For example, residents of Camden County have over 5 hospitals to choose from for their care. If one hospital is ranked far worse than the others, informed patients will choose to avoid the facility altogether.

Thus, hospitals that do not value patient safety will experience a major decline in revenue until they literally are forced to clean up their act.

While it is sad that better care comes down to a money game, a mass exodus of patients (or potential revenue) is the only way to get the attention of a hospital CEO with an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality.

How to Get Involved

Speak up! Write or call your local congressman or congresswoman and let them know that you support hospital-specific reporting of medical mistakes (Bill A1264 or S807).

The local paper is another great way to spread the word on this issue. Send letters to the editor, submit posts to the online forums/ blogs and leave comments on any relevant stories to express your support.

We, the public, deserve to know the quality of our local hospitals and healthcare facilities – and hospital-specific reporting of medical errors is the only way to achieve that goal.