Healthcare News & Insights

Good news: Hospital-acquired conditions are declining overall

Hospitals are slowly but surely making progress with preventing various hospital-acquired conditions. A new report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) shows there’s been a decrease in several conditions over the past five years. 

According to the report, published on AHRQ’s website, preliminary data shows there was a 21% decline in hospital-acquired conditions in the period from 2010-2015. That means an estimated 125,000 fewer patients died in the hospital due to these conditions – and close to $28 billion was saved.

The reduction in these conditions contributed to about 980,000 fewer incidents of patient harm in 2015, compared to if rates stayed at 2010 levels.

Over the past five years, the impact has been more significant – 3.1 million incidents causing harm to patients have been avoided since 2010.

Specific conditions

As stated in a press release, hospital-acquired conditions examined in the report include central-line associated bloodstream infections, falls, ventilator-associated pneumonia, adverse drug events, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, surgical site infections and pressure ulcers. Conditions such as these were chosen because they still occur far too often in hospitals, despite the fact that they’re largely preventable.

Most of the reduction in these conditions was caused by a decrease in adverse drug events, which have declined by 42% in the past five years. Developments such as automatic alerts for potential adverse medication effects built into electronic health records (EHR) systems may have contributed to these results.

Additional conditions that have decreased significantly since 2010 include pressure ulcers (23%) and catheter-associated urinary tract infections (15%).

Reasons for decreasing rates

The report suggests that several factors have contributed to this decline, including the increased efforts of hospitals to improve patient safety because of mandates and payment incentives from the feds and private payors.

Other reasons why these conditions are less frequent in hospitals include public reporting of hospital results (since transparency encourages hospitals to change) and federal assistance for hospitals to invest in technology that helps them prevent errors. The report also cites the rise of EHRs, which have improved over the past five years to help clinical staff better identify issues that could harm patients.

In addition, more hospitals are working with AHRQ to implement initiatives designed to improve quality of care. Example: One AHRQ tool hospitals use to successfully improve patient outcomes is the Comprehensive Unit-based Safety Program (CUSP) toolkit, which combines evidence-based medicine and improvements in a facility’s communication, teamwork and safety culture to produce long-lasting positive changes for patient safety.

Facilities can use resources like the CUSP toolkit and safety checklists to reduce the rates of hospital-acquired conditions in their patients. Whatever method your hospital chooses, it’s critical to keep making efforts toward lowering the likelihood that patients will be harmed by these events.

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