In a case that has attracted national attention, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) sued Walgreens when it refused to turn over the medication error incident reports for three of its pharmacists. The basis for Walgreens’ decision was that these documents were collected as part of the company’s patient safety evaluation system and reported to The Patient Safety Research Foundation, its component patient safety organization (PSO), which was certified by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) as permitted under the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005 (PSQIA). The trial court ruled in Walgreens’ favor and dismissed the IDFPR’s lawsuit holding that the incident reports were protected under the PSQIA and therefore not discoverable. The case is now on appeal to the Illinois Appellate Court, which is likely to be the first appellate court to interpret the provisions of the PSQIA.
The privilege and confidentiality protections afforded under the PSQIA are far broader than most state peer review confidentiality statutes; they apply in both state and, for the first time, federal proceedings. In addition, any licensed provider in the state, such as hospitals, physicians, nursing homes and pharmacies, can take advantage of these protections when establishing a patient safety evaluation system and collecting and reporting documents, data, evaluations and other protected patient safety activities to a PSO through a required contractual arrangement. There currently are 81 certified PSOs in the United States.