New Federal Hospital Patient Safety Program

April 26, 2011

By Kristin Simeons, Director of Healthcare Delivery Solutions

Last Wednesday, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Partnership for Patients, a provision of the Affordable Care Act to help reduce medical errors and improve patient safety in hospitals.

The initiative stems back to concerns over a November 1999 Institute of Medicine report, “To Err Is Human,” which identified significant safety issues within our nations’ hospitals. Sentinel events due to missteps in performing tests and procedures, administering treatments, providing timely care, using equipment, communicating orders — the report cites them all. Since then, there’s been little change: A 2010 DOH report says that 27 percent of hospitalized Medicare patients experience adverse events, 44 percent of which are “clearly or likely” preventable.

The resulting costs? About $324 million a year. Clearly, something’s got to change.

By partnering with hospitals, clinicians, and other health care stakeholders, the new initiative aims to reduce infections, adverse drug events, injuries from falls, and other mishaps in U.S. hospitals by 2013. Overall, the goals are to:
While these goals may be aggressive, they’re not impossible. By taking a guided and collaborative approach to problem-solving, hospitals and clinicians can begin to deconstruct and benchmark current practices to pinpoint the real opportunities for improving hospital patient safety.

  • Decrease preventable hospital-acquired conditions by 40 percent, which would result in about 1.8 million fewer injuries and save 60,000 lives over three years.
  • Improve care during transitions from one care setting to another, reducing preventable hospital readmissions by 20 percent. This would save 1.6 million patients from suffering a preventable complication requiring re-hospitalization within 30 days of discharge.