Healthcare News & Insights

Good news: Hospital-acquired conditions on the decline

A hospital’s main goal is to make patients better, but sometimes the opposite happens and patients acquire new conditions during their stays. When those adverse events occur, dealing with them adds a host of new challenges to patient care. 

But here’s some good news: Those conditions are decreasing steadily.

New data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s (AHRQ) National Scorecard on Hospital-Acquired Conditions shows the rates of most hospital-acquired conditions declined by 8% between 2014 and 2016.

Approximately 350,000 conditions were avoided during those years and $2.9 billion was saved.

Specific conditions

Those conditions include adverse drug events, ventilator-associated pneumonia, injuries from falls, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, pressure injuries, central-line associated bloodstream infections and surgical site infections.

This decline continues the downward trend in hospital-acquired conditions seen from 2010 to 2014. Rates decreased by 17% between those years.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) set a goal of reducing hospital-acquired conditions by 20% from 2014 to 2019. Once that goal is met, the AHRQ estimates there will be 1.8 million fewer patients affected by those conditions. In addition, $19.1 billion will be saved.

“CMS is committed to moving the healthcare system to one that improves quality and fosters innovation while reducing administrative burden and lowering costs,” said CMS Adminstrator Seema Verma.

Why the decrease?

There are many potential reasons for the decline, according to a previous AHRQ report, such as the rise of mandates and payment incentives from both the federal government and private payors, which encourage hospitals to keep a close eye on patient safety.

In addition, the public reporting of hospital results has given organizations additional motivation to prioritize safety, since they don’t want to be “named and shamed” as dangerous facilities.

Many hospitals have also been offered federal financial assistance to make investments in technology that cut down on preventable medical errors. Speaking of technology, improvements in electronic health record (EHR) systems have allowed providers to foresee potential issues and stop them in their tracks before they cause harm to patients.

If your hospital is looking to continue the trend, focus on training clinical staff to notice and prevent the errors that can cause hospital-acquired conditions. Emphasize the importance of checking every detail, and provide safety checklists or other tools for employees to use as reminders.

It’s also important to dig deeper into your facility’s current error rates. That way, you can properly address any problem areas, and focus your training efforts and recommendations more accurately.

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