Feds commit $1 billion to reduce patient complications and injuries

Maryalene LaPonsie | April 12, 2011

One in 20 patients is affected by an infection related to hospital care on any given day, according to the Obama Administration. In addition, the government pays more than $30 billion a year to treat Medicare beneficiaries who have been the victim of medical errors or complications.

On average, one in seven Medicare beneficiaries is harmed in the course of their care, which amounts to an annual cost of $4.4 billion. Another 2.6 million seniors are annually readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of being discharged, which results in an annual expense of $26 billion.

These are just some of the statistics cited by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in announcing the creation of the Partnership for Patients initiative--a public-private collaboration to reduce patient injuries and complications scheduled to run through 2013.

Health insurance companies join

According to an HHS press release, 500 organizations, hospitals and employers have joined the initiative, including such major health insurance companies as Aetna, the BlueCross BlueShield Association, CIGNA and UnitedHealth Group. They've pledge to share information and create market-based incentive programs promoting safety and quality improvements. The payoff for health insurance plans and HMOs is fewer claims and a lower cost of doing business. For subscribers, there's hope savings will be passed on in the form of lower health insurance rates.

The Partnership for Patients is asking hospitals to set their sights on specific problem areas, including these four:

  1. Adverse drug reactions
  2. Pressure ulcers
  3. Childbirth complications
  4. Surgical site infections

If successful, the Partnership for Patients expects a 20 percent reduction in preventable complications and hospital readmissions by program's end.

Saving lives, saving dollars

The Partnership for Patients doesn't come cheap. HHS has committed to funding up to $1 billion toward the effort. The money has already been authorized under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), with $500 million available through the community-based Care Transitions Program. Another $500 million is slated for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Innovation Center to fund efforts to reduce hospital-acquired conditions.

While the investment might sound steep, the government estimates $35 billion in costs can be cut as a result of the initiative, according to HHS. Of that amount, $10 billion is expected to come from Medicare. And, if the monetary savings seem impressive, they pale in consideration to more important benefits. HHS' goal is to reduce preventable hospital-acquired conditions, including infections, by 40 percent. That means 1.8 million fewer patient injuries and 60,000 lives saved - something upon which you simply can't put a price.

Tags : medicare, health care reform, patient care

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