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Opinion: Legislators must act to improve the care and safety of hospital patients

There are many important bills in front of the Colorado legislature this session, but for Denver Health, our doctors and the nearly 250,000 unique patients we serve, one of the most important is the renewal of Colorado’s Professional Review Act, or SB19-234.

The “Peer Review” Act was established by the state legislature in 1976 to ensure transparency, safe practice and a continuous environment of improvement in health care.

Connie Price

Extended by the legislature several times since then, with bipartisan support, it is up for reauthorization this session.

The act’s reauthorization is critical to the improvement of care and the safety of our patients.

Physicians and other health professionals have a fiduciary responsibility to put their patients’ interests first at all times.

Elbra Wedgeworth

The act is critical because it allows health professionals to candidly and openly evaluate their peers through confidential reviews, with the goal of improving care.

These reviews assess the competence, quality and appropriateness of patient care in a constructive way, leading to health professionals becoming better caregivers.

A primary example of the act in action is its incorporation into our nationally recognized Residency in Emergency Medicine Program. Our residents attain clinical excellence by seeing large numbers of  high acuity patients in a variety of clinical settings.

They learn from their peers through confidential reviews, so they can continually improve medical outcomes. The act allows residents to learn from even the most difficult cases, and is a critical part of how Denver Health became a national leader in emergency care and surviving trauma.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

The ultimate goal of professional review at Denver Health is to ensure that qualified health care professionals are providing safe and appropriate patient care.

Maintaining this supportive environment for professional, constructive review promotes a culture of safety. It also helps ensure Colorado can continue to attract and retain quality health care professionals.

The act is supported by Denver Health, but also by patient safety organizations, nurses and doctors; including the 236 registered Governing Boards for professional review committees across the state, the Colorado Nursing Association, Colorado Medical Society and Colorado Hospital Association.

A thorough nine-month study by the independent Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies found that the act is positively contributing to patient safety and professional development for the health care community and is still necessary. They overwhelmingly endorsed the full reauthorization of the act.

There are only three weeks left of the 2019 legislative session, and this important policy needs to be passed to ensure patient safety and physician transparency, without entangling it in political maneuvering.

Anything other than full reauthorization of SB19-234 would chill the professional review process and our physicians’ ability to learn.

Connie Price, MD is the Chief Medical Officer for Denver Health. Elbra Wedgeworth is the Chief Government and Community Relations Officer for Denver Health.

Rising Sun