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Preventable Deaths Report Not Ready for Prime Time

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, June 19, 2014

A report identifying scores of potential inpatient complications, meant to alert hospitals to their magnitude and frequency, is getting a tepid reception. It is "an interesting idea, but I don't yet know what it tells me," says one hospital quality expert.

Kudos to Premier Inc., the group purchasing and quality collaborative, for telling us that nearly 50,000 patients in 540 hospitals participating in a project may have needlessly died from 86 preventable and very expensive complications last year.

In an eye-popping report published last week in The American Journal of Medical Quality, Premier boldly suggests that if the hospitals had just tried a bit harder, they might have avoided the complications that are the most common causes of inpatient death and cost, such as hypotension, respiratory failure, aspiration pneumonia, and acute renal failure.

It's a scary report.

I don't want to boggle you with numbers, but in addition to the nearly 50,000 people who might have lived, some $4.3 billion might have been saved, and 1.8 million inpatient days might have been avoided. Premier calls this group of 86 conditions "PICs," or "potentialinpatient complications."

The key word here is "potential."

Poking CMS in the Eye
In addition to calculating potential harm and costs, the report also pokes payment policies issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services right in the eye.

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1 comments on "Preventable Deaths Report Not Ready for Prime Time"


Fred Shield, M.D. (6/20/2014 at 3:54 AM)
In my 30 years as an Internist, I have seen very few of the preventable complications this article refers to. I feel like there is some vast conspiracy out there trying to discredit hard working physicians. This type of info put out into the public domain does nothing to engender trust and confidence in physicians or healthcare at large. And what really gets my ire up is that the authors of many of these "studies" are physicians themselves. Now I am not a proponent of mediocrity, much the opposite, I believe in the theory that great outcomes are often not achieved because people (and physicians) are satisfied with merely good results. Let's build up those of us in healthcare so we can have more satisfaction in a job well done rather than having to read how incompetent we are perceived to be.