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Fam Pract Manag. 2002;9(7):24

AAFP establishes patient safety center

The American Academy of Family Physicians recently established the Center for Evaluation and Research in Patient Safety in Primary Care, funded in part by a grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The center’s goal is to improve the safety and quality of medical care in family practice and primary care settings. Initial studies will focus on rural and residency practices.

Family physicians, their staffs and patients will identify opportunities for error reduction. The center will develop solutions and educational tools that will be tested by the 117 practices that make up the AAFP National Research Network. Those that prove effective will be disseminated to family physicians through the AAFP.

Deborah Graham, MSPH, senior research associate for the National Research Network, serves as project director of the Patient Safety Center, and John Hickner, MD, MS, director of the National Research Network, serves as the principal investigator of the grant. Project staff from the National Research Network are collaborating on Patient Safety Center activities with staff from the AAFP’s Robert Graham Policy Center and the Socioeconomics, Research and Information Services, and Continuing Medical Education divisions.

Two patient safety bills introduced in Congress

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are considering bills (S 2590 and HR 4889) that would encourage physicians and nurses to voluntarily report medical errors to dedicated “patient safety organizations,” which would analyze the data and develop error-prevention strategies. The bills would classify the reported information as privileged and confidential, protecting it from disclosure in civil, criminal or administrative proceedings, except in extraordinary cases.

“To err may be human, but failure to share those errors, learn from them and prevent them from happening again is unforgivable,” said Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.), who introduced the House bill. “If we can get providers to report health care errors, then we can learn from the mistakes and work to ensure they do not happen again.”


The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Advisory Committee on Regulatory Reform recommended on May 16 that the documentation guidelines for evaluation and management services be eliminated completely. The committee, which was formed by HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson to find ways HHS can ease physicians’ regulatory burdens, voted 20–1 to eliminate the guidelines and did not suggest a replacement for them. The recommendation will now go to Secretary Thompson for consideration.

Reducing medication errors in seconds

Fifty percent of surveyed physicians who use ePocrates Rx (a comprehensive drug information guide that can be downloaded to a hand-held computer) indicated that using it has prevented at least one adverse drug event per week, according to a study published in the May/June 2002 Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. Physicians using Rx were typically able to find drug information in five to 10 seconds, while those using Physicians’ Desk Reference or other medical textbooks generally took one to five minutes.

New drugs are nothing new

From 1989 to 2000, 65 percent of the “new” drugs approved by the FDA were either identical to or slightly modified versions of existing drugs, according to a recent study by the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation. The study found that only 35 percent of the 1,035 drugs approved during that time period contained any new active ingredients, and only 15 percent contained new ingredients that offer significant clinical improvements over existing drugs.

Free compensation calculator

Physicians can access a free compensation calculator on the Medical Group Management Association’s Web site at After filling out a basic registration form, users must input their collections for professional charges as well as key demographic data. Based on that information, the calculator estimates the amount of direct physician compensation.

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