Fewer Errors, Lower Costs, Better Quality

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Fewer Errors, Lower Costs, Better Quality

Is the Affordable Care Act Making Your Hospital Safer?

By Working Nurse
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One of the many goals of the Affordable Care Act was to improve healthcare quality while reducing costs. Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) announced that those efforts are bearing fruit. AHRQ says there have been substantial reductions in the rate of hospital-acquired conditions since 2010, saving 50,000 lives and $12 billion.

Fewer HACs

Hospital-acquired conditions (HACs) like adverse drug events, patient falls and ventilator-associated pneumonia are a serious and all-too-common problem. In 2010, the HHS Office of the Inspector General reported that an alarming 27 percent of all hospitalized Medicare patients suffered some kind of adverse event while in the hospital.

With the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, HHS and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) launched several initiatives aimed at reducing the incidence of HACs, many of which are preventable. HHS put more than $1 billion into programs like the Partnership for Patients, a voluntary quality-improvement initiative involving more than 3,600 hospitals nationwide.

According to the latest report from AHRQ, the incidence of HACs declined from a baseline of 145 incidents per 1,000 patient discharges in 2010 to 121 HACs per 1,000 discharges in 2013, a reduction of almost 17 percent. In all, the agency says that between 2011 and 2013, there were 1.3 million fewer incidents than if hospitals had remained at the 2010 rate.

Real Progress or Just PR?

The AHRQ report does not attribute the reduction to any single program or initiative, but Rich Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association, says the “infrastructure of improvement” created by the HHS efforts “has spurred the results you see today.”

Nonetheless, some patient safety experts remain very critical of initiatives like the Partnership for Patients. Peter Pronovost, M.D., Ph.D., FCCM, senior vice president for patient safety and quality at Johns Hopkins, says the federal initiatives lack rigorous, uniform standards, allowing individual hospitals too much flexibility in how they measure quality. They put more emphasis on positive PR than on reducing patient harm.

Patrick Conway, M.D., CMS chief medical officer and deputy administrator for innovation and quality, maintains that the federal programs are helping. “These collaborative efforts are rapidly moving healthcare safety in the right direction,” he says.   

This article is from workingnurse.com.

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