Healthcare News & Insights

Mixed bag for preventing patient complications

Hospitals will have to step it up a notch to keep patients from experiencing preventable complications. A new report shows that while complication rates aren’t increasing right now, they aren’t decreasing, either. 

ThinkstockPhotos-465308486The report, which was released by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), tracks how often patients experience complications such as infections, bedsores and falls while hospitalized.

While there’s been a 17% decline in these hospital-acquired conditions since 2010, rates didn’t change from 2013 to 2014, the latest year for which numbers were available, according to a Kaiser Health News article about the report.

Gains & setbacks

Out of all hospital-acquired conditions the agency tracked, the ones that occurred most often were:

  • adverse drug events
  • catheter-associated urinary tract infections
  • pressure ulcers, and
  • surgical site infections.

And even though progress is flat right now, hospitals have still met several federal goals for improving the rates of some specific complications since 2010.

Most notably, central-line associated bloodstream infections have fallen by 72%. Catheter-associated urinary tract infections fell by 38%, while surgical site infections decreased by 18%.

In fact, the reduction in complications over the past five years has resulted in 2.1 million fewer incidents of patient harm, along with 87,000 fewer deaths and almost $20 billion in cost savings.

The rates for other hospital-acquired conditions have been stubborn, though. Patient falls haven’t decreased much, and neither has ventilator-associated pneumonia.

And according to the Kaiser Health News article, some infections, like MRSA, are on the rise. In addition, the rates for certain never events, like a catheter puncturing a femoral artery during an angiography, also increased.

So it’s clear hospitals have some work to do, though the AHRQ has acknowledged that facilities have made “substantial progress in improving safety.”

Future outlook

The good news is that rates may start decreasing again for hospital-acquired conditions over time due to the rise of value-based care initiatives in facilities across the country.

The latest numbers don’t take into account several new projects designed to boost patient outcomes at facilities across the country. Example: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has created the Transforming Clinical Practices Initiative, which is designed to improve outpatient health care across all settings, from hospitals to primary care practices.

And as Medicare tightens its belt for facilities that don’t meet the mark, numbers may improve even more out of sheer necessity. Many changes have already come about because facilities are trying to avoid penalties for excessive readmissions and other adverse outcomes.

Making improvements

To make sure your hospital is doing its part in lowering patients’ risk for experiencing preventable complications, it’s important to have a system in place that keeps track of these events when they occur, as well as a standardized process to find and fix the root of the problem.

Treating these occurrences as learning experiences, rather than opportunities for punishment, is key for boosting patient safety by promoting a culture where staff aren’t afraid to speak up about errors.

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