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HHS Initiative Aims to Reduce Medical Errors and Cut Costs

Print media sources widely covered an announcement last week that the Obama Administration was partnering with hospitals, insurers and other groups in order to reduce medical errors. Most sources considered the move a positive for the Administration.

The Los Angeles Times reports, “The Obama administration announced a broad new initiative Tuesday to reduce medical errors, partnering with private insurers, business leaders, hospitals and patient advocates to tackle a problem that kills thousands of Americans every year.” This “campaign, funded by the healthcare overhaul the president signed last year, aims to cut by 40% over the next three years the number of harmful preventable conditions such as infections that patients acquire in the hospital.” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made the announcement about the Partnership for Patients initiative, and CMS Administrator Donald Berwick noted that the initiative has “big goals.”

The AP reports, “Sebelius said the new national Partnership for Patients will help other hospitals adopt those proven safety strategies.” The program “is funded by $1 billion from the new healthcare law, but has the potential to save Medicare up to $10 billion in that same time.”

The New York Times “Prescriptions” blog quotes Sebelius as saying, “Americans go the hospital to get well, but millions of patients are injured because of preventable complications and accidents. … Working closely with hospitals, doctors, nurses, patients, families and employers, we will support efforts to help keep patients safe, improve care, and reduce costs. Working together, we can help eliminate preventable harm to patients.”

According to the CNN “The Chart” blog, the initiative “will save 60,000 lives over the next three years by reducing millions of preventable hospital-related complications and injuries. Sebelius says the new partnership will also save about $35 billion in healthcare costs including $10 billion in Medicare savings.” Meanwhile, American Medical Association president Cecil Wilson, MD, said that the group’s “physicians will be encouraged to do everything they can to reduce adverse events and hospital readmissions.” Wilson added, “We know that if we ensure that a patient’s primary care physician receives their discharge papers within 24 hours of their release from the hospital, the likelihood of hospital readmission will be reduced.”

The Hill reports in its “Healthwatch” blog that HHS aims to accomplish the initiative’s goals “by disseminating best practices that have already allowed the nation’s best hospital systems to cut preventable errors significantly.” Berwick noted, “Blame and accusation are not the answers; teamwork, improvement are the answers.” The AMA’s Wilson is also quoted as saying, “We all need to do everything we can to avoid preventable patient illness and injuries while also working to ensure that patients are able to heal without complications.”

Reuters reports that another goal of the initiative is to cut hospital readmissions by at least 20 percent. Sebelius noted that 500 hospitals are already part of the effort.

CQ reports, “Because the program is voluntary, making good on the projections is initially going to require a disciplined effort by hospital and other healthcare CEOs to devote time and resources to the project — in addition to their efforts to comply with the many requirements of the healthcare law.” Berwick explained that “the changes needed in healthcare delivery to meet the goals of the project will help hospitals qualify in a few years for incentive payments under the health law to improve patient safety.”

The PBS NewsHour “The Rundown” blog reports, “The partnership will begin by asking hospitals to focus on nine types of medical mistakes where there is potential for dramatic reductions in harm. These include pressure ulcers, drug reactions, childbirth complications and surgical site infections.” Notably, Berwick will “oversee the new partnership.” He stated, “Through strong partnerships at national, regional, state and local levels … we are supporting the hospital community to significantly reduce harm to patients.

From the American Association for Justice news release.

Bob Kraft

I am a Dallas, Texas lawyer who has had the privilege of helping thousands of clients since 1971 in the areas of Personal Injury law and Social Security Disability.

About This Blog

The title of this blog reflects my attitude toward those government agencies and insurance companies that routinely mistreat injured or disabled people. As a Dallas, Texas lawyer, I've spent more than 45 years trying to help those poor folk, and I have been frustrated daily by the actions of the people on the other side of their claims. (Sorry if I offended you...)

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