Will a ‘National Patient Safety Board,’ Modeled After the NTSB, Actually Fly?

by | Jun 5, 2023 | Health

People concerned about the safety of patients often compare health care to aviation. Why, they ask, can’t hospitals learn from medical errors the way airlines learn from plane crashes?

That’s the rationale behind calls to create a “National Patient Safety Board,” an independent federal agency that would be loosely modeled after the National Transportation Safety Board, which is credited with increasing the safety of skies, railways, and highways by investigating why accidents occur and recommending steps to avoid future mishaps.

But as worker shortages strain the U.S. health care system, heightening concerns about unsafe care, one proposal to create such a board has some patient safety advocates fearing that it wouldn’t provide the transparency and accountability they believe is necessary to drive improvement. One major reason: the power of the hospital industry.

Two measures are underway to create a safety board: A bill filed in the U.S. House in December by Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), which is expected to be refiled this session, calls for the creation of a board to help federal agencies monitor safety events, identify conditions under which problems occur, and suggest preventive measures.

However, the board would need permission from health care organizations to probe safety events and could not identify any health care provider or setting in its reports. That differs from the NTSB, which can subpoena both witnesses and evidence, and publish detailed accident reports that list locations and companies.

A related measure under review by a presidential advisory council would create such a board …

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