Patient Safety Bill Moving

The Committee on Public Health recently reported out H. 4720, “An Act Reducing Medical Errors and Improving Patient Safety.”

This bill merges a number of patient safety bills, including three bills for which Health Care For All and the Consumer Health Quality Council have been advocating this session: H. 2139, sponsored by Representative Denise Provost (D-Somerville), which requires hospitals to screen incoming high-risk patients for MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Auerus), a type of bacteria that can cause serious infections, and take precautions with those who test positive to prevent it from spreading; S. 909/H. 2084, sponsored by Senator Susan Tucker (D-Lawrence) and Representative Kay Khan (D-Newton), which establishes an expert panel to study medication errors in Massachusetts and make recommendations to the state for how to reduce them; and S. 878/H. 2138, sponsored by Senator Richard Moore (D-Uxbridge) and Representative Provost, which requires hospitals to use “checklists of care” to prevent infections and other complications. Learn more about these three bills on the HCFA quality agenda website,

The merged bill makes some changes to the three bills listed above while maintaining the intent of improving patient safety and health care quality. The MRSA screening provision does not require screening but requires the Department of Public Health to develop model screening and precautionary procedures while also encouraging hospitals to use the model procedures or others they have developed. The checklist section would require DPH to develop model checklists and to encourage hospitals to use these or other checklists. In both cases, hospitals are required to report to DPH and the Betsy Lehman Center on their use of MRSA screening and precautionary procedures and of checklists of care. The language requiring the medication errors panel did not change in the merged bill.

H. 4720 also incorporates other bills, including a provision allowing medical providers to apologize following the occurrence of an adverse medical event and that apology cannot be used in a court of law. Another section would require the Board of Registration in Medicine to develop regulations relating to the education and training of health care providers in disclosure of adverse events. Other sections of the bill expand the definition of peer review committees to allow them to exist across health care systems and also provide protection to anyone who files or assists in good faith in a complaint relative to the practice of nursing. Finally, the bill would require the establishment of a task force to study and reduce the practice of defensive medicine and overuse of medicine in MA. This task force, as well as the medication errors panel, must have at least one consumer representative.

With just a few weeks left in the legislative session, it is important that the Committee on Health Care Financing (list of members) hear from Massachusetts residents who want to see this bill become law. Please contact the Committee chairs and other members of the Committee, as well as your own Senator and Representative, and ask them to support House bill 4720. Contact Deb Wachenheim ( with any questions.
-Deborah W. Wachenheim

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One Response to Patient Safety Bill Moving

  1. Many medical malpractice attorneys including me fully endorse this bill. It addresses systemic errors that cause tremendous suffering and many deaths. Just as important, we support efforts to allow doctors to apologize without that being used against them in court. It is the right thing to do, it is what we teach our children to do, and it gives patients some solace to know that their doctors care about what has happened to them.

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