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Governor Jon Corzine signed a new law earlier this week that will require New Jersey hospitals to publicly report on their performance in areas of patient safety, including serious medical errors.

Because of this law, patients will no longer be required to pay for any medical errors committed during their treatment—something that patients in many states around the country are still required to do.

Annual reports from the Department of Health and Senior Services will now include patient-safety statistics, including numbers of surgeries done on the wrong body part; surgical objects accidently left inside patients’ bodies; and injuries from preventable post-surgery falls. Though this kind of data was already being collected internally, it will now be made public.

Armed with this kind of patient safety information, patients will now have more control over their health care options, and be able to make more informed decisions about the care they receive.

"Patients and families have a right to know which hospitals have the higher and lowest error rates so they can compare and make responsible health care choices," said Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, D-Washington Township.

Nationwide, excess charges due to preventable medical errors exceed $9 billion a year, observed Sy Larson, president of AARP New Jersey, which supports the new law.

"We know that public reporting of hospital performance improves quality," said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Heather Howard. Similar reporting standards have produced "dramatic decreases in cardiac surgery deaths," she said. –NJ Courier-Post

More reporting on preventable medical errors will translate to better health care and lower health care costs. The rest of the country could benefit from following New Jersey’s example and enacting mandatory error-reporting legislation.

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