Preventable Deaths Report Not Ready for Prime Time

Cheryl Clark, 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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