National patient safety work saves lives, money, says HHS

New HHS report shows hospital-acquired conditions dropped 21 percent, 3 million fewer adverse events occurred over five years
By Bernie Monegain
11:20 AM

About 125,000 fewer patients died due to hospital-acquired conditions and more than $28 billion in healthcare costs were saved over five years from 2010 through 2015, according to a Department of Health and Human Services report released December 12.

Hospital patients experienced over 3 million fewer hospital-acquired conditions from 2010 through 2015 - a 21 percent decline in the rate of these events over that period. The decline of hospital-acquired infections was a major goal of the Affordable Care Act to improve the quality of healthcare.

“The Affordable Care Act gave us tools to build a better healthcare system that protects patients, improves quality and makes the most of our healthcare dollars and those tools are generating results,” HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell, said in a statement.

How do this year’s numbers compare with those of last year?

Last year’s data showed that 87,000 fewer patients died due to hospital-acquired conditions and $20 billion in healthcare costs were saved from 2010 to 2014.

"These achievements demonstrate the commitment across many public and private organizations and frontline clinicians to improve the quality of care received by patients across the country,” Patrick Conway, MD, deputy administrator for innovation and quality and chief medical officer at CMS, said in a statement.

“It's a testament to what can be accomplished when people commit to working towards a common goal,” Conway added.

Hospital-acquired conditions include adverse drug events, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, central line associated bloodstream infections, pressure ulcers and surgical site infections, among others. These conditions were selected as focus areas because they occur frequently and appear to be largely preventable based on existing evidence.

Much of the evidence on how to prevent hospital-acquired conditions was developed and tested by AHRQ. One of the tools used most frequently by hospitals is AHRQ’s Comprehensive Unit-based Safety Program, CUSP: a proven method that combines improvement in safety culture, teamwork and communications with evidence-based practices. AHRQ has worked with frontline clinicians to help them use CUSP in a series of nationwide projects that have proven effective in preventing healthcare-associated infections. 

“AHRQ has been building a foundation of patient safety research for the last decade and a half at the request of Congress,” said AHRQ director Andy Bindman, M.D. "Now we’re seeing these investments continue to pay off in terms of lives saved, harm avoided and safer care delivery overall. We’re gratified by the progress, and we look forward to building on this work to help make patient care even safer as the work continues."

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