Healthcare News & Insights

Hospitals show gains in patient safety rates

All the effort hospitals have been putting into improving patient safety is paying off, according to a new report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

78606060Data from the AHRQ report says the rate of hospital-acquired conditions and adverse events dropped by 17% between 2010 and 2013.

That adds up to 1.3 million fewer harmful events for patients – and over 50,000 fewer patient deaths.

Besides improved patient safety and outcomes, the decline in hospital-acquired conditions also contributed to healthcare cost savings. Compared to the baseline numbers from 2010, preventing these conditions saved close to $12 billion.

To arrive at these numbers, AHRQ looked at the individual rates for conditions such as:

  • surgical site infections
  • adverse drug events
  • falls
  • catheter-associated urinary tract infections
  • pressure ulcers
  • central line associated bloodstream infections
  • post-op venous thromboembolisms
  • obstetric adverse events, and
  • ventilator-associated pneumonia.

According to numbers from the report, the biggest contributors to both fewer patient deaths and lower healthcare costs were decreases in the rates of pressure ulcers and adverse drug events.

Along with the overall 17% drop, the occurrence for these events dropped by several percentage points in each individual year examined. From 2010 to 2011, rates for hospital-acquired conditions dropped by 2%. Rates declined by 7% between 2011 and 2012, and by 9% from 2012 to 2013.

Cause for improvement

How did hospitals achieve such promising results when it comes to improving patient safety? The report says that there are likely several causes, including:

  • financial incentives from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for meeting quality benchmarks
  • the push toward transparency and public reporting of adverse events in hospitals, and
  • various forms of assistance from both quality improvement programs and partnerships with CMS and private payors.

Most of these contributing factors can be traced directly to implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which has placed hospitals’ performance under more public scrutiny than ever before – and has introduced greater consequences for failing to meet established standards.

Looking ahead

Even with the encouraging progress hospitals have made, more work needs to be done to improve patient safety, according to the report. Despite the marked decrease in hospital-acquired conditions from 2010 to 2013, almost 10% of hospital patients experienced one or more of the conditions reviewed by AHRQ in 2013.

So it’s crucial for hospitals to continue their efforts to keep patients safe from these conditions, whether it’s through an internal patient safety improvement program, a collaborative effort with other organizations and agencies, or a combination of these two strategies.

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