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Hospital Patient Safety Efforts Reduce Hospital Conditions by 8%

Improvements in patient safety yielded 8,000 avoided patient deaths and $2.9 billion in healthcare cost savings.

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Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- Patient safety is improving nationwide, as hospital-acquired condition rates go down by 8 percent between 2014 and 2016, according to the latest numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Between 2014 and 2016, hospitals across the country used patient safety initiatives to avoid nearly 350,000 hospital-acquired conditions. Hospital-acquired conditions may include adverse drug events, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, central-line associated bloodstream infections, pressure injuries, and surgical site infections, among others, AHRQ explained.

In total, reductions in adverse hospital events prevented about 8,000 deaths and saved approximately $2.9 billion.

These gains build on improvements made in earlier years, AHRQ noted. Between 2010 and 2014, the nation saw 2.1 million fewer hospital-acquired conditions than in previous years.

AHRQ and related agencies, including CMS, have made it their goal to reduce the number of adverse hospital events. CMS, for example, has set the goal to reduce hospital-acquired infections by 20 percent between 2014 and 2019. In reaching that goal, the nation’s hospitals could avoid 1.8 million hospital-acquired infections, 53,000 deaths from patient safety pitfalls, and $19.1 billion in healthcare costs.

To that end, CMS launched Hospital Improvement Innovation Networks (HIINs) to help spread patient safety best practices. HIINs have worked with nearly 4,000 of the nation’s 5,000 hospitals to support more effective patient safety strategies.

CMS and related agencies said they will continue their work toward improved patient safety and reduced hospital-acquired conditions.

“Today’s results show that this is a tremendous accomplishment by America’s hospitals in delivering high-quality, affordable healthcare,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a public statement.

“CMS is committed to moving the healthcare system to one that improves quality and fosters innovation while reducing administrative burden and lowering costs,” Verma continued. “This work could not be accomplished without the concerted effort of our many hospital, patient, provider, private, and federal partners—all working together to ensure the best possible care by protecting patients from harm and making care safer.”

CMS plans to continue the work HIINs do, while adding the Quality Improvement Network – Quality Improvement Organizations (QIN-QIO). Those bodies aim to offer technical assistance to support increased patient safety.

These most current numbers will allow CMS, AHRQ, and other stakeholders to better target their patient safety improvement efforts, according to AHRQ Director Gopal Khanna, MBA.

“Estimates in the new National Scorecard identify important goals for ongoing efforts to protect patients,” Khanna explained. “These data not only help us track how we’re doing, but they help us set the target for where we need to go. We continue to work with HHS and others to develop tools and resources hospitals and clinicians can use to reach those goals.”

Improving patient safety is a critical aspect of a quality patient experience. Healthcare professionals across the country have continued to emphasize patient safety as the linchpin of quality healthcare experiences. It is no longer the amenities that matter, but the ability for a provider to reduce patient harm.

“Patient safety is fundamental to the promise we make to patients,” Gary Yates, MD, a strategic consulting partner at Press Ganey, said in a previous interview. “We like to think of the patient experience as being the convergence of quality, safety, and the experience of care.”

That is not to say other pillars of patient satisfaction – quality patient-provider communication, empathy, comfort – are not important. But patient safety has proven essential to a patient walking away from an encounter happy.

Although the nation has seen considerable reductions in hospital-acquired conditions, mistakes do happen. The way the provider handles them is also critical to patient safety initiatives, Yates pointed out.

“It allows for us to engage patients in helping us understand how we can improve going forward,” Yates concluded. “Being honest with the patient about what happened, apologizing as appropriate, and communicating with them about actions that are taken helps to assure patients that the underlying causes of what might have affected that patient or her loved ones is something that the organization is addressing to prevent it from happening to another patient.”

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