Because of work done at IHI and by others, Sebelius said, providers know that major improvements are possible.
"We know that one in four heart attack patients and one in five heart failure patients are back in the hospital within 30 day after leaving in the first place. Most of those folks have never seen or had a follow-up from a healthcare provider in the interim period," she said.
"Now, that's very costly. But we can't forget that there's also a human expense. No one I know wants to spend more time in the hospital or watch their loved ones get more ill or, God forbid, to die because of the illness that they got in the hospital, not what brought them to the hospital in the first place."
While Sebelius acknowledged efforts by the IHI to find better ways of delivering care in ways that avoid errors in care that cause patient harm, she noted two recent reports – a study in the New England Journal of Medicine showing that in 10 North Carolina hospitals "harms remain common, with little evidence of widespread improvement," and another by the U.S. Office of Inspector General.