HHS’ New Patient Safety Program: Bettering Care with a Billion

April 13, 2011

For providers, HHS’ new Partnership for Patients initiative raises a few questions as to where the $1 billion will go.

HHS made headlines on Tuesday with the launch of a new program that aims to save 60,000 lives and millions of Medicare dollars by decreasing the number of preventable injuries and patient-care complications over the next three years. 

To launch what it calls The Partnership for Patients initiative, HHS said it would invest up to $1 billion in federal funding, made available under the Affordable Care Act.

“Americans go the hospital to get well, but millions of patients are injured because of preventable complications and accidents,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in a statement. “Working closely with hospitals, doctors, nurses, patients, families, and employers, we will support efforts to help keep patients safe, improve care, and reduce costs. Working together, we can help eliminate preventable harm to patients.”

The initiative ties in nicely with the just-released Accountable Care Organization proposal, which offers insight into the government’s plans to promote an integrative approach to improving patient care. That HHS’ Partnership for Patients plan links money to the improvement of specific measures - patient safety and preventative medical errors - is a good thing.

For providers, however, the news release leaves a few questions as to where the $1 billion will go. HHS says that $500 million is going to community-based care follow-up. That leaves $500 million for “innovations”: HHS says the CMS Innovation Center will help hospitals adapt “effective, evidence-based care improvements” to target preventable patient injuries on a local level, developing innovative approaches to spreading and sharing strategies among public and private partners in all states.

And hospitals will be tasked with reducing “nine types of medical errors and complications” such as adverse drug reactions, pressure ulcers, childbirth complications, and surgical site infections.

But does that mean we’ll see grants for companies that make high-tech equipment (such as RFID, which is known to help reduce the rate of wrongful surgical procedures)? How will federal money ensure clinicians actually use specific best practices that decrease patients’ chances of developing pressure ulcers?

 

Depending on who you talk to, the list of questions as to how the money will be spent could go on.

Still, we think making strides toward reducing patient-care injuries by 40 percent and hospital readmissions by 20 percent is a noble goal. Which is why it’s no surprise more than 500 hospitals, as well as physicians and nurses groups, consumer groups, and employers have agreed to commit to the new initiative.

What are your thoughts on this new initiative? How should federal money be spent to reduce patient care complications and decrease preventable injuries? Post your response below.