Quality assurance techniques aim to measure and uphold the quality of patient care. Tools have been developed that investigate bad outcomes, and identify system errors that may lead to bad outcomes. Hospital administrators are motivated to use these tools, but worry that quality assurance may itself cause legal risks to a hospital. For example, if a hospital finds and documents substandard care, a patient who has suffered a bad outcome might discover this and try to use it in litigation against the hospital. This article examines the legal doctrine behind document discovery, freedom of information, legal professional privilege, medical professional privilege, qualified privilege and defamation, to explore how patients and their relatives may, first, come across and obtain quality assurance findings, and second, use them in legal action. With this knowledge, public hospital administrators might then be able to engage in quality assurance without unduly causing legal risk for their hospital.
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