Now law, Vitale bill improves data on hospital infections

TRENTON – A new law will allow the state to collect more detailed information regarding infection data at hospitals and other health care facilities.

Signed into law today by Gov. Chris Christie, formerly S817, the law amends the Health Care Facility Associated Infection Reporting and Prevention Act.

Sponsored by state Sen. Joe Vitale (D-19), of Woodbridge, the vice-chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, the bill was unanimously approved by the Senate last June, and received final legislative approval in the Assembly in February.

“Infection reporting is an important tool to make sure that hospitals and other health care facilities are following best practices to keep their patients safe,” Vitale said in a statement. “However, a recent report by the federal government noted that state infection reporting programs that do not independently verify data are prone to mistakes. We want to make sure that we have the best data possible, to give health care consumers a clear and accurate snapshot of the safety of New Jersey’s health care system.”

Hospital and medical facilities are required to submit more specific data to the state Department of Health and Senior Services, which will verify the information, according to the new law. All information will still remain confidential, protecting patients’ rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The department will be able to step in when it determines hospitals are not following best practices regarding infection prevention.

Vitale had legislation drafted addressing the infection reporting issue, after a 2008 federal Government Accountability Office found some hospital provided wrong data. The report recommended having all the data independently checked.

The senator said the legislation is not intended to put hospitals in a negative light.

“Most hospitals in New Jersey are doing the right thing, following best practices, cooperating with the Department of Health, and keeping their patients as safe as possible,” he said.  “However, when there’s an honest mistake, or when a hospital fudges the numbers, the Department needs to be able to check the data and act accordingly. I want to thank Gov. Christie and my fellow legislators for recognizing the importance of accurate, complete infection data in order to preserve and protect the public health.”

Now law, Vitale bill improves data on hospital infections