May 7—National reductions in adverse drug events, falls, infections, and other forms of hospital-induced harm are estimated to have prevented nearly 15,000 deaths in those facilities in 2011 and 2012, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The report concluded that data showing safety improvements from public and private initiatives also prevented 560,000 patient injuries and about $4 billion in health spending in those two years.

The conclusions primarily stemmed from “preliminary data” that showed an overall 9 percent decrease in hospital-acquired conditions (HACs) from the start of 2011 through 2012. Specifically, the measured harm rate dropped from 145 harms per 1000 discharges in 2010 to 132 harms per 1,000 discharges in 2012.

Additionally, the Medicare all-cause 30-day readmission rate fell from 19 percent in 2007 through 2011 to about 17.5 percent in 2013.

“This translates into an 8 percent reduction in the rate and an estimated 150,000 fewer hospital readmissions among Medicare beneficiaries between January 2012 and December 2013,” the report stated.

Progress on Goals

Those reductions put the Obama administration well on its way to meeting the goals of the Partnership for Patients, a public-private collaborative authorized through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is sharing best practices with more than 3,700 hospitals through the initiative, which aims to reduce preventable hospital-acquired conditions by 40 percent and 30-day readmissions by 20 percent between 2010 and 2014.

The report credited the partnership and other ACA initiatives for the hospital safety improvements.

“The Affordable Care Act includes tools—such as tying Medicare reimbursement for hospitals to their readmission rates and the Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Program—to improve the quality of health care that can also lower costs for taxpayers and patients,” the report stated. “This means avoiding costly mistakes and readmissions, keeping patients healthy, and rewarding quality instead of quantity.”

A November 2010 study by the Office of the Inspector General found that 13 percent of hospitalized Medicare beneficiaries experience adverse events resulting in prolonged hospital stay, permanent harm, life-sustaining intervention, or death. Almost half of those events are considered preventable.

The new HHS report followed a March finding by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that hospital-acquired infections nationwide dropped 58 percent in a recent 10-year span.

Publication Date: Wednesday, May 07, 2014