AMA Says Potential SCOTUS Case Could Threaten Data Sharing

April 29, 2015 in News

The American Medical Association has called attention to a potential Supreme Court case that could threaten health care providers’ ability to share patient data with patient safety systems without fear of legal action, Politico‘s “Morning eHealth” reports (Gold et al., “Morning eHealth,” Politico, 4/27).

Case Background

At issue in Tibbs v. Bunnell are confidentiality protections under the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act for data collected through patient safety systems for the purpose of studying adverse health outcomes and improving care. The act removes the threat that the shared information could be used against physicians involved by allowing them to share such data through patient safety organizations.

According to AMA, the case started after the estate of a patient who died at a University of Kentucky medical center brought a liability suit against the hospital, which had submitted an incident report to a patient safety organization to be added to a patient safety database.

The patient’s estate had asked for the report as part of the litigation discovery process. However, the hospital argued it was protected under PSQIA.

A trial court ruled that the report was not protected. The Kentucky Supreme Court concurred, ruling that the information was not protected under the PSQIA because such records are required under state law, regardless of if they are submitted to an agency or not (AMA Wire, 4/24).

The hospital is now asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the decision.

Argument Details

In an amicus brief filed by the Litigation Center of the AMA and the State Medical Societies, physicians wrote that a decision upholding the state Supreme Court’s decision could “stifle the collection and use of ‘patient safety work product,’ and frustrate” one of the law’s main aims, which is “to provide a nationwide repository where adverse health care outcomes can be studied and corrected” (“Morning eHealth,” Politico, 4/27).

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