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Hospital Infections in Decline Following Affordable Care Act

120672248New data released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) paint a promising picture for quality measures in American hospitals since Obamacare took effect. Health regulators say there’s been a nine percent decrease in hospital acquired conditions in 2011 and 2012. The data indicates that health care providers and hospitals throughout the nation are achieving reductions in the number of medical mistakes and hospital infections experienced by patients.

According to the HHS, hospital-acquired conditions include falls, adverse drug reactions, infections, and other events that cause patients to suffer hospital-induced harm.

Affordable Care Act reduces hospital readmissions

Quality improvements have prevented some 15,000 patient deaths in hospitals, and helped avert 560,000 patient injuries. Overall, this has saved an estimated $4 billion in health care spending between 2011 and 2012.

A news release issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that this progress is a reflection of the unparalleled public-private collaboration made possible by President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.  Of the wide scale improvements in hospital safety across the country, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, “We applaud the nationwide network of hospital systems and providers that are working together to save lives and reduce costs…We are seeing a simultaneous reduction in hospital readmissions and injuries, giving patients confidence that they are receiving the best possible care and lowering their risk of having to be readmitted to the hospital after they get the care they need.”

The Affordable Care Act strives to enhance health care quality for patients, in an effort to lower costs for both patients and taxpayers. Some of the primary goals are to prevent costly mistakes and hospital readmissions, reward quality instead of quantity and keep patients healthy.

Thanks to provisions within the Affordable Care Act, the all-cause hospital readmission rate among Medicare beneficiaries – which hovered between 19-19.5 percent for the past four years – dropped to 18.5 percent in 2012.  The number dropped again in 2013, with the all-cause 30-day hospital readmission rate among Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries dipping down to 17.5 percent.

Partnership for Patients formed to help prevent patient harm

In 2011, the HHS began collaborating with the medical community, patient advocates and federal and state governments to start the Partnership for Patients, a nationwide initiative to prevent patient harm within hospitals. One of the key purposes of the initiative is to cut hospital-acquired conditions by 40 percent and 30-day readmissions by 20 percent between 2010 and 2014.

In an attempt to reduce the number of hospital infections and other acquired conditions, the Partnership for Patients is focusing on ten areas of concern:

  • Readmissions
  • Adverse Drug Events (ADE)
  • Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections (CAUTI)
  • Surgical Site Infections (SSI)
  • Central Line Associated Blood Stream Infections (CLABSI)
  • Injuries from Falls and Immobility
  • Obstetrical Adverse Events, including Early Elective Deliveries (EED)
  • Venous Thromboembolism (VTE)
  • Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia (VAP)
  • Pressure Ulcers (PrU) 

Efforts made by the Partnership for Patients along with innovative tools provided by the Affordable Care Act have made great strides in increasing patient safety, lowering healthcare costs, and providing a more sustainable healthcare system for providers, concludes the HHS.

The news release follows a disheartening study published in the medical journal BMJ Quality & Safety this April. Researchers estimated through a population-based study that diagnostic errors affect at least 1 in 20 adults. Basically, this means that six million Americans are injured by medical misdiagnosis errors every year.