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Patient Safety, Hospital Quality Improve by 17% in Three Years

By Jennifer Bresnick

Thanks to patient safety improvement efforts, hospital-acquired conditions and preventable deaths have shown significant declines in the past few years.

- A strong focus on improving patient safety and hospital quality through value-based reimbursement and accountable care has successfully reduced the number of preventable patient deaths, hospital-acquired conditions, and adverse events by 17% between 2010 and 2013, HHS announced today.  With a total savings of $12 billion in costs and 50,000 fewer hospital deaths over the relatively short time period, HHS and the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research (AHRQ) praised hospitals for their commitment to improving the safety of care within their facilities.

“Today’s results are welcome news for patients and their families,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “These data represent significant progress in improving the quality of care that patients receive while spending our health care dollars more wisely.  HHS will work with partners across the country to continue to build on this progress.”

“As a practicing physician in the hospital setting, I know how important it is to keep patients as safe as possible,” added Patrick Conway, MD, CMS deputy administrator for innovation and quality and chief medical officer.  “These collaborative efforts are rapidly moving health care safety in the right direction.”

A report from AHRQ on the hospital quality efforts shows significant strides in major quality indicators, including pressure ulcers, adverse drug events (ADEs), surgical site infections, and catheter-associated urinary tract infections.  The data estimates that 20,000 deaths have been averted due to improved pressure ulcer care alone, while 11,540 patients have escaped death thanks to fewer ADEs.  The cumulative number of hospital-acquired conditions avoided by patient safety efforts totals more than 1.3 million.

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“Never before have we been able to bring so many hospitals, clinicians and experts together to share in a common goal – improving patient care,” said Rich Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association. “We have built an ‘infrastructure of improvement’ that will aid hospitals and the health care field for years to come and has spurred the results you see today. We applaud HHS for having the vision to support these efforts and look forward to our continued partnership to keep patients safe and healthy.”

AHRQ estimated the data based on what events would have been likely to occur had 2010 levels of patient harm remained steady.  While the numbers are rough estimates across the broad and complex national healthcare system, the report calls the overall reduction in HACs and adverse events a “remarkable achievement” that must continue to trend downward in order to ensure the delivery of the highest quality patient care.

“AHRQ has developed the evidence base and many of the tools that hospitals have used to achieve this dramatic decline in patient harms,” said AHRQ director Richard Kronick, PhD. “Additionally, AHRQ’s work in measuring adverse events, performed as part of the Partnership for Patients, made it possible to track the rate of change in these harms nationwide and chart the progress being made.”

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