A new report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) indicates that national patient safety efforts have helped to reduce hospital-acquired conditions by 21 percent since 2010, with hospital patients experiencing 3 million fewer hospital-acquired conditions over a five-year period.
Due in part to provisions of the Affordable Care Act, according to HHS officials, approximately 125,000 fewer patients died due to hospital-acquired conditions and more than $28 billion in health care costs were saved from 2010 through 2015. Hospital-acquired conditions are conditions that a patient develops while in the hospital being treated for something else. The decline in their incidence aligns with a major goal of the Affordable Care Act to improve the quality of health care.
The HHS report, the National Scorecard on Rates of Hospital-Acquired Conditions, represents demonstrable progress over a five-year period to improve patient safety in hospitals, according to HHS. These data, compiled and analyzed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), build on results previously reported in December 2015. Last year’s data showed that 87,000 fewer patients died due to hospital-acquired conditions and $20 billion in health care costs were saved from 2010 to 2014.
“The Affordable Care Act gave us tools to build a better health care system that protects patients, improves quality, and makes the most of our health care dollars and those tools are generating results,” HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said in a statement. “Today’s report shows us hundreds of thousands of Americans have been spared from deadly hospital acquired conditions, resulting in thousands of lives saved and billions of dollars saved.”
Many federal efforts supported this initiative to improve patient safety, including the Partnership for Patients initiative, a public-private partnership working to improve the quality, safety and affordability of health care. HHS launched the Partnership for Patients in 2011 though the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation to target a specific set of hospital-acquired conditions for reductions through systematic quality improvement. In addition, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), through a program created by the Affordable Care Act, worked with hospital networks and aligned payment incentives to bring about a shared and sustained focus on making care safer.
"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 county,” Patrick Conway, M.D., deputy administrator for innovation and quality and chief medical officer at CMS, said in a statement. “It is important to remember that numbers like 125,000 lives saved or over 3 million infections and adverse events avoided represent real value for people across the nation who received high quality care and were protected from suffering a terrible outcome. It is a testament to what can be accomplished when people commit to working towards a common goal. We will continue our efforts to improve patient safety across the nation on behalf of the patients, families, and caregivers we serve.”
“Hospitals and health systems, along with their frontline clinicians, can take great pride in this progress," Jay Bhatt, D.O., American Hospital Association Chief Medical Officer and president of AHA’s Health Research & Educational Trust, said. "Not only have they saved lives, but they’ve also developed tremendous capacity to tackle safety challenges – a foundation that will help them get to zero incidents."
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, HHS officials said.
Much of the evidence on how to prevent hospital-acquired conditions was developed and tested by AHRQ. As an example, one of the tools used most frequently by hospitals is AHRQ’s Comprehensive Unit-based Safety Program (CUSP), which is a method that combines improvement in safety culture, teamwork and communications with evidence-based practices to prevent harm and make the care patients receive safer.
AHRQ works with its HHS colleagues, researchers, doctors, nurses, other health care professionals, and health care teams across the country to create new knowledge about how to improve care and make it safer, in areas such as preventing healthcare-associated infections, combating antibiotic resistance, and reducing diagnostic error. As part of that work, AHRQ has developed a variety of methods, tools, and resources to help hospitals and other providers prevent hospital-acquired conditions, such as infections, pressure ulcers, and falls. AHRQ also developed the measurement strategy for the National Scorecard as part of the Partnership for Patients initiative. Researchers at AHRQ used national data systems to analyze the incidence of 28 avoidable hospital-acquired conditions that occurred from 2010 to the first three quarters of 2015 and compared them to baseline estimates of deaths and excess health care costs for 2010.