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Vitale Bill To Allow For Increased Infection Reporting At Health Facilities Signed Into Law

Measure Would Allow State to Independently Verify Infection Reports, Ensure Safety at Hospitals, Other Health Facilities

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee Vice Chairman Joseph F. Vitale which will allow the State to collect more detailed information regarding infection data at hospitals and other health care facilities was signed into law today by Governor Christie.

“Infection reporting is an important tool to make sure that hospitals and other health care facilities are following best practices to keep their patients safe,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “However, a recent report by the federal government noted that state infection reporting programs that do not independently verify data are prone to mistakes. We want to make sure that we have the best data possible, to give health care consumers a clear and accurate snapshot of the safety of New Jersey’s health care system.”

The new law, S-817, amends the “Health Care Facility-Associated Infection Reporting and Prevention Act,” to allow for the transmission of more specific data that identifies patients to the State Department of Health and Senior Services. This information will allow the Department to independently verify data submitted by hospitals, to ensure that it is accurate and complete. Patient-identifying information will still remain confidential to protect a patient’s rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), but will allow the Department to create a more accurate image of hospital safety, and step in when best practices regarding infection prevention are not being followed.

Senator Vitale’s measure was inspired by a 2008 federal Government Accountability Office report that found that infection reporting programs that do not independently check the accuracy of infection data submitted by hospitals pose a substantial risk of misleading the public. The report noted that some hospitals provide erroneous data and an independent review is necessary to ensure that information is accurate and complete.

“Most hospitals in New Jersey are doing the right thing, following best practices, cooperating with the Department of Health, and keeping their patients as safe as possible,” said Senator Vitale. “However, when there’s an honest mistake, or when a hospital fudges the numbers, the Department needs to be able to check the data and act accordingly. I want to thank Governor Christie and my fellow legislators for recognizing the importance of accurate, complete infection data in order to preserve and protect the public health.”

The bill was unanimously approved by the Senate last June, and received final legislative approval in the Assembly in February.

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