Clarifying Data Provisions for Office of Health Facility Complaints

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Problem Statement

The problem this proposed legislation addresses is the confusion caused by the Office of Health Facility Complaint’s (OHFC) investigative data covered by several different laws. All of the investigations conducted by OHFC address the same types of problems, those being the needs of and care given to vulnerable people in health care facilities or settings. The confusion arises because a large portion of the investigations falls within the data provisions of the Vulnerable Adults Act (VAA) while several other laws, with a different approach to the data, cover a significant minority of the investigations. These variations create confusion for the people OHFC interviews and make it more difficult for OHFC to administer the data.

In addition, the identity of perpetrators who have maltreated vulnerable adults is classified as private under the VAA. In consultation with the Department of Human Services, MDH has not been able to identify any reason why that classification exists. It is information that is important to both the public and health care providers.

How does this legislation address the problem?

This legislation classifies all OHFC investigative data under the VAA. This is the law with which most health care providers and other affected parties are familiar. It protests the identity of all persons contacted by OHFC both during the course of the investigation as well as after it is completed. The VAA also sets out clear guideline regarding what must be in OHFC’s public investigative reports. The guidelines strike a balance between privacy interests and the legitimate interests of the public to be able to review the work of OHFC and to understand the basis for OHFC’s determinations. Currently, when non-VAA investigative reports are made public, a much greater portion of them must be redacted thus making the reports more difficult to read and evaluate. The legislation will correct this problem.

The legislation also changes the classification of the identity of substantiated perpetrators of maltreatment from private to public. This is consistent with other laws, such as criminal laws and health professional licensing provisions, under which persons are determined to have engaged in some wrongdoing. The change would affect finding made both by MDH and DHS.

Who is affected?

All persons who are interviewed as part of an OHFC investigation would receive the same information about how their data will be treated regardless of the law under which OHFC is conducting the investigation.

Substantiated perpetrators of maltreatment will no longer have their identities protected. Their names will be public.

MDH is unaware of any opponents to either provision. The Minnesota Newspaper Association supports the change in the classification of the name of substantiated perpetrators.

What are the consequences if this legislation does not pass?

Persons interviewed will remain confused by the differing data classifications applicable to information about them. In addition, the chance of the data being incorrectly administered is significantly increased due to the confusing web of data laws that apply to non-VAA investigations. Another serious consequence is the potential impact on investigations. Because OHFC will not be able to promise that the names of all persons interviewed will always remain as private, some persons will be hesitant to provide full and complete information that is so crucial to a valid investigation. For example, family members or friends of the victim might not be as forthcoming for fear of retaliation against their relative or friend. Likewise, some health care workers may withhold information that could be critical of peers or supervisors.

Updated Tuesday, 16-Nov-2010 12:27:53 CST