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Will other states follow suit?
Illinois hospitals are in the process of developing procedures for fielding questions about the Hospital Report Card Act, an Illinois law that became effective in January. As the first point of contact for most patients, access departments are likely to feel the impact as consumers make use of their increased ability to get answers to a variety of questions about hospital operations. The law, which is the first of its kind in the country, gives Illinois consumers direct access to comprehensive information about nurse staffing levels, patient outcomes, infection rates, and mortality rates in every licensed hospital in the state.
The bipartisan measure provides that some staffing and training information will be disclosed by hospitals upon request, while additional nursing and nosocomial infection data will be reported to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), which will release the information to the public.
Law represents landmark change
The Illinois Hospital Association (IHA) described the Hospital Report Card Act as "not only a landmark change for consumers in Illinois, but for hospitals, their medical staff, the professionals hospitals employ, and the IDPH."
The law could potentially spread to other states, suggests Liz Kehrer, CHAM, system administrator for patient access at Centegra Health System in McHenry, IL. She says "due to recent suspicious inquiries," it became necessary for her hospital to develop a protocol for responding to questions inquiries regarding the report card. Facilities must have a process in place to meet consumer needs in accordance with the law and, at the same time, not jeopardize their security in any way, Kehrer points out. The following guidelines have been developed at her hospital:
According to a summary by the IHA, Illinois consumers have access to the following new information under the law:
Whistle-blower provisions in the law provide immunity from employer actions for hospital employees who, in good faith, disclose activities that they believe may pose a risk to the health, safety, or welfare of hospital patients or the public.
To qualify for immunity under the act, employees must provide to their managers a written notice of the problem and a reasonable period to address the concern. In turn, the manager is obligated to respond in writing within seven days, acknowledging that notice was received.