Hospitals have decreased the frequency of patient harm and readmissions over the last two years, according to a new report from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Experts credit the new quality initiatives in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but some patient safety improvements preceded that law. (“Hospitals Boost Patient Safety, But More Work Is Needed,” Kaiser Health News, May 7, 2014)
Medicare readmissions decreased a full percentage point from 2012 to 2013—this translates to 150,000 fewer readmissions (an 8 percent reduction). CMS began charging hospitals for higher-than-expected readmissions over the last two years and more than 2,000 hospitals have been fined under this program. “A number of hospitals have devised new ways to monitor their patients after they leave, including scheduling regular check-ups and giving impoverished patients free medication.” (“Hospitals Boost Patient Safety, But More Work Is Needed,” Kaiser Health News, May 7, 2014)
Improvements in patient safety decreased from 145 to 132 complications per 1,000 discharges over a two-year period (2010 to 2012)—a 9 percent reduction. Even with the improvements, one out of eight patients is injured during his/her time in the hospital.
CMS set up 27 hospital collaborations to share ways to improve patient safety, lower readmissions and to track progress, which may have contributed to the reduction in patient harm. In addition, the health reform law created a penalty for hospital errors that will go into effect in October.
An expert from the Association of American Medical Colleges noted that the health reform law’s financial incentives were likely a factor in reducing patient harm, but that much of the decrease is related to quality scorecards hospitals use internally as well as those from The Leapfrog Groups, Healthgrades and other similar groups.
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