New Report Cites Harms Reductions

A new report from a federal agency that monitors healthcare quality in the U.S. is documenting substantial gains in the effort to reduce patient harm in hospitals across the nation. The report just released by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), shows dramatic reductions in key indicators like adverse drug events, pressure ulcers and infections. The AHRQ study examined frequency in the overall category of hospital-acquired conditions (HACs), at acute-care hospitals in the U.S. – using a baseline finding of 145 HACs per 1,000 discharges in 2010. The sharp decline to 121 HACs in 2014 translates to an estimated 87,000 fewer patient deaths and an estimated savings of $19.8 billion over what would have been experienced had the baseline rate remained unchanged. This 17% reduction in HACs can’t be explained by any single factor, according to AHRQ, but rather by a number of influences working together synergistically. These include payment incentives, public/private collaborations like the Partnership for Patients, increased levels of technical assistance to hospitals from Quality Improvement Organizations and Hospital Engagement Networks, and technological advances such as the emergence of electronic health records. The largest reduction in the estimated 2.1 million fewer harms occurred in the category of adverse drug events; AHRQ estimates that fewer drug catastrophes accounted for 40% of the overall reduction, followed by reductions in pressure ulcers (28% of the decline), and catheter-associated urinary tract infections (16% of the decline). The authors attribute 87,000 fewer deaths to the decline in HACs from 2010–2014 and view the finding that 70,000 of the deaths were averted in 2013 and 2014 alone as “encouraging.” In a similar fashion, AHRQ finds that the bulk of the dollar savings estimated to have taken place ($16 billion of a total estimated $19.8 billion savings), occurred in 2013 and 2014. Saving Lives and Saving Money: Hospital-Acquired Conditions Update, Interim Data from National Efforts to Make Care Safer, 2010–2014, is available at www.ahrq.gov.