How Will Partnership for Patients Reduce Medical Harm?

Cheryl Clark, April 21, 2011

The Obama administration's campaign to reduce hospital-acquired conditions by 40% and slash readmissions by 20% by 2013 seemed at first to be a publicity ploy lacking detail.

"Look here at all the harm being done; it's urgent that we tackle this problem head on," it seems to say. But that's okay.

The Partnership for Patients initiative announcement last week came right on the heels of CMS' frightening hospital-acquired conditions disclosure. The voluminous spreadsheet revealed exactly how many of each type of eight hospital-acquired conditions had occurred at each of the nation's 3,361 hospitals. Perhaps the timing of the two events was deliberate.

But the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services hasn't yet explained much about how it intends to track success rates for these badly needed improvements. For example, it hasn't

  • Provided a roadmap or instruction sheet to achieve the goals
  • Explained how it intends to track success rates for these improvements
  • Determined whether improvements should take place in the processes or actual outcomes and what metrics will be used
  • Provided clarity on who would review the data.

"I've been told the details will come," says David Classen, MD, author of the report in Health Affairs earlier this month that revealed hospitals are injuring as many as one in three patients receiving acute care because of avoidable errors.

His study pointed out that the safety metric traditionally used by half the hospitals in the country, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's Patient Safety Indicators, or PSI, missed nine in 10, which were caught by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement's Global Trigger Tool.

 "This is all going to come to head, they're going to have to decide how they measure patient safety," he says.

I think that's a great idea. It's about time.


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