A new report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that nationwide efforts to make healthcare safer are paying off. Thanks in part to provisions of the Affordable Care Act, about 125,000 fewer patients died due to hospital-acquired conditions and more than $28 billion in healthcare costs were saved from 2010 through 2015.
In total, hospital patients experienced more than 3 million fewer hospital-acquired conditions during that period, the result of a 21 percent decline in the rate of these adverse events. Hospital-acquired conditions are conditions that a patient develops while being treated in the hospital for a different ailment. The decline in their incidence aligns with a major goal of the ACA to improve the quality of healthcare.
The National Scorecard on Rates of Hospital-Acquired Conditions showed progress over the five-year span to improve patient safety in hospitals. The data, compiled and analyzed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, build on results previously achieved and reported in December 2015. Last year's figures 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.
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Many federal efforts supported this progress, including the Partnership for Patients initiative, a public-private partnership working to improve the quality, safety and affordability of healthcare. HHS launched the Partnership for Patients in 2011 though the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to target a specific set of hospital-acquired conditions for reductions through systematic quality improvement.
In addition, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, through a program created by the ACA, worked with hospital networks and aligned payment incentives to bring about a shared and sustained focus on making care safer.
Patrick Conway, deputy administrator for innovation and quality and chief medical officer at CMS, said in a statement that the achievements "demonstrate the commitment across many public and private organizations and frontline clinicians to improve the quality of care received by patients across the country."
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.
Much of the evidence on how to prevent hospital-acquired conditions was developed and tested by AHRQ. For example, one of the tools used most frequently by hospitals is AHRQ's Comprehensive Unit-based Safety Program, a method that combines improvement in safety culture, teamwork and communications with evidence-based practices to prevent harm and make care safer. AHRQ has worked hand-in-hand with frontline clinicians to help them use CUSP in a series of nationwide projects that HHS said have been highly effective in preventing healthcare-associated infections.
AHRQ works with its HHS colleagues, researchers, doctors, nurses, other healthcare professionals, and healthcare 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 healthcare costs for 2010.