How did adverse events at hospitals fall 17 percent since 2010?

Hospitals are improving their patient safety track record, particularly when it comes to reducing the pressure ulcers that can result in complications like infections and lengthened hospital stays. A report released this week by Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality  showed a 17 percent decline in hospital-acquired conditions from 2010 to 2013. Last year alone, […]

Hospitals are improving their patient safety track record, particularly when it comes to reducing the pressure ulcers that can result in complications like infections and lengthened hospital stays. A report released this week by Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality  showed a 17 percent decline in hospital-acquired conditions from 2010 to 2013. Last year alone, hospitals saved $8 billion of a total of $12 billion preventing hospital acquired infections and adverse events such as falls, hospital acquired infections and medication errors over a four year timeframe.

In addition to pressure ulcers, the report estimates that an emphasis on patient safety has reduced adverse drug reactions, falls, and urinary tract infections from catheters.
Medicare stopped paying hospitals for treatment of advanced pressure ulcers in 2008, according to Modern Healthcare.

One downside of the report is that it fails to identify any specific actions that led to the improvements. But it does give credit to Partnership for Patients, a federal grant program that works as a private public partnership initiated by the Obama administration. It set a goal of cutting down on avoidable hospital acquired conditions and reducing readmissions. Several groups have used the funds to promote best practice so hospitals can learn from each other on hot topics like how to reduce falls and reduce hospital acquired infections. For example, Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority received a two-year grant in 2012 for training healthcare staff on using teamwork and communication to boost patient safety. Better coordination of care teams, based on guidance from AHRQ, has also played a role.

But there are also the groups that drew attention to the scale of the problem in the first place such as Health and Human Services, AHRQ, CMS and the CDC. One thing to keep in mind is that the numbers of cases and the cost savings are base don a mix of raw data and estimates.

Surgical site infections can be particularly costly considering that they account for a relatively small number of cases compared with the other areas. Hospitals have also made a big push to improve things like handwashing practices in the past few years. But punishing fines that reduce reimbursement for readmissions caused by hospital acquired infections have also added to hospitals’ need to address the issue.