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Lack of Public Reporting of Serious Adverse Events Occurring in Florida’s ASCs

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A very interesting and detailed article, in, on the level of serious medical errors (adverse events) occurring in ambulatory surgery centers in the state of Florida, and the lack of public reporting of such events. The article notes that Florida lawmakers are considering proposals this legislative session that could expand surgery center use and create a new class of “recovery care centers” allowing them to perform even more complex medical procedures. But some patient safety advocates worry that government oversight and mechanisms to publicly report serious safety events are not keeping pace. Unlike hospitals which publicize safety and quality scores, day surgery centers rarely face such scrutiny.

Florida’s constitution guarantees the right of patients to know about adverse events at health facilities. But state regulators, who collect data about facility safety and medical outcomes, do not disclose where deaths, permanent injuries and other reported dangerous events happen, citing an exemption in open records laws. To date, its transparency push has related largely to getting procedure costs publicized, not incidents of medical mistakes.

The article also notes that even when its available, safety information is hard to find. While Florida requires surgery centers to report safety violations and conducts regular inspections of facilities to ensure compliance with rules governing everything from record-keeping to surgical safety, it is not easy for potential patients to find that information in any usable form, thanks in part to the way the state makes it available. Florida’s 445 ambulatory surgery centers are overseen by the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration (known as AHCA) and, in most cases, the Medicare system. AHCA routinely posts inspection results and accompanying sanctions online. Reference to serious medical events does not appear in those reports. The online documents themselves are presented in a very user-unfriendly format.

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