Healthcare Business News

HHS launches $1 billion patient-safety initiative

By Maureen McKinney and Jessica Zigmond
Posted: April 12, 2011 - 10:15 am ET

(Story updated with executive comments)

HHS has announced the launch of Partnership for Patients, a $1 billion collaborative patient-safety initiative focused on reducing preventable harm and easing transitions of care.

Patient-safety advocates, clinicians, employers and more than 500 hospitals have already signed on to participate in the partnership, HHS said. The government predicts the program could save 60,000 lives over the next three years and save up to $50 billion in Medicare costs over the next decade.

Initial funding of $500 million was made available today as part of Community-based Care Transitions Program, a provision of the healthcare reform law aimed at reducing readmissions and improving care transitions. According to HHS, the remaining $500 million will be made available through the CMS Innovation Center to support local projects that reduce hospital-acquired conditions.

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“With new tools provided by the Affordable Care Act, we can aggressively implement programs that will help hospitals reduce preventable errors,” said CMS Administrator Dr. Donald Berwick, in a news release. “We will provide hospitals with incentives to improve the quality of health care, and provide real assistance to medical professionals and hospitals to support their efforts to reduce harm.”

At an HHS news conference heavily attended by hospital officials and advocates, Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, said she thinks this patient-safety initiative differs from previous ones because HHS “is going after everyone,” rather than focusing on particular health systems or teaching hospitals.

“The second thing that stands out is there are going to be consistent measurements and transparency about those measurements,” Keehan said. “And they're going to share best practices—share tools—because people have done some really wonderful work around the country on various things,” she said, adding that stakeholders haven't spent enough time outlining clearly the tools they've used to make changes in this area.

When asked about the $500 million from the CMS Innovation Center to test different models of care, Dr. Richard Gilfillan, the center's director, said announcements regarding those contracts will roll out over the next few months.

“We're going to find our way to engagement with every hospital in America,” Gilfillan said, adding that those demonstration projects will support various types of networks and other activities to advance this effort across those hospitals.

HHS said the partnership's two main goals are to lower the number of preventable hospital-acquired conditions by 40% and reduce preventable complications that occur during care transitions by 20% by the end of 2013, compared with 2010.

The announcement comes just weeks after the CMS released hospital-specific HAC data on its site despite criticism from hospitals and physicians.

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