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Mandatory public reporting

David Birnbaum (Applied Epidemiology, Sidney, Canada)

Clinical Governance: An International Journal

ISSN: 1477-7274

Article publication date: 25 April 2008




The purpose of this paper is to discuss early experience with American state laws that are starting to mandate public disclosure of adverse outcome event rates from surveillance programs which previously were regarded as a solely confidential activity of internal quality review committees.


The paper is a literature review of sources identified from the PARADIGM database.


Responding to public concerns prompted by the Institute of Medicine's widely read report on medical error, a growing number of states have legislated mandatory public reporting of adverse event rates. This change from an era of data held confidential by each accreditation‐compliant hospital or shared by voluntary participation in regional or national programs heralds dissatisfaction that cannot be ignored and a political response that cannot be impeded. However, to avoid repeating mistakes of early efforts, it is essential to recognize that meaningful mandatory public reporting will require adequate standardization of surveillance definition application, attention to differences in underlying patient populations, optimized frequency and format of data displays, and effective communication to shape and serve realistic public expectations.


Learning from the experience of others can help future legislation balance technical concerns and right‐to‐know considerations so as to best serve the public good.



Birnbaum, D. (2008), "Mandatory public reporting", Clinical Governance: An International Journal, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 142-146.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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