A Kentucky hospital’s claim that the information in its records that was relevant to a medical malpractice case was confidential and therefore off limits to the plaintiff and the court, was rejected by the Supreme Court of Kentucky on August 21st. The decision of the court ordered that the hospital provide the incident report to the plaintiff under Kentucky state law.
The case began with the death of a patient "as a result of complications from elective spinal surgery." The patient’s estate filed a wrongful death suit and asked for a copy of the incident report from the hospital. This incident report was generated through the hospital’s Patient Safety Evaluation System. This evaluation system is a part of a network of systems created by the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act, enacted by the U.S. Congress in 2005. The intent of this act was to establish a national network through which hospitals could communicate relevant patient safety information in order to improve patient safety and quality of health care. One of the provisions of the act was that the information exchanged through this network (which is generated by systems including the Patient Safety Evaluation System), be confidential in order to protect the privacy of the patients, and that it only be disclosed if authorized by the Act.
The defendant hospital used this in order to argue that they could not disclose the incident report, as it was generated through the Patient Safety Evaluation System. The Supreme Court of Kentucky noted that under state law, hospitals are required to produce administrative reports, including incident reports, and that these reports are generally discoverable under state law. The court then noted that while the report filed under the Patient Safety Evaluation system in this case may have been relevant to the goal of Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act, this did not negate the fact that the hospital was required to produce a generally discoverable incident report under state law in accordance with Kentucky Administrative Regulations. Because the report could not be considered confidential under state law, the court ruled that the defendant hospital was obligated to produce a copy of the incident report for the plaintiff.