Federal Patient Safety Act Protects Hospital’s Infection Data From Patient Lawsuit

by Mary Anne Pazanowski, Bloomberg Law. Sept. 27, 2019.

A patient who contracted an infection following an elective hospital procedure may not access information related to the hospital’s infection prevention guidelines, a federal court in Pennsylvania said.

Documents produced by Robert Packer Hospital’s patient safety organization for the purpose of improving patient safety fell within the federal Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act’s privilege for patient safety information, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania said Sept. 26.

Copies of the hospital’s agenda, notes, and written records of quality control meeting at which infection prevention procedures were discussed also were privileged, although the hospital’s correspondence with federal, state, and local agencies was not, it said.

Richard Rumsey sued the hospital and Guthrie Medical Group PC for medical malpractice. He alleged they negligently failed to test and treat him for methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus. Rumsey sought discovery of information related to the hospital’s infection-prevention procedures.

The PSQIA creates a process for hospitals that engage in peer review to collect, manage, and analyze patient safety data and deposit it in a patient safety evaluation system. The data is intended to be disclosed to a patient safety organization, which collects information from multiple providers, aggregates it, and recommends fixes for common patient safety issues.

The act provides a privilege for the underlying patient safety work product so that “medical professionals may provide the brutally honest feedback hospitals need to keep their patients safe without fear of its use in litigation,” the court said. Pennsylvania’s Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act provides similar protections.

Judge Matthew W. Brann wrote the opinion.

Cozen O’Connor represents Rumsey. Kane, Pugh, Knoell, Troy & Kramer LLP represents the hospital.

The case is Rumsey v. Guthrie Med. Grp., P.C., 2019 BL 362705, M.D. Pa., No. 4:18-cv-1605, 9/26/19.