Employers pay significantly higher costs for patients who experience medical errors during surgical visits, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. In an AHRQ study published July 28, researchers found errors might cost payers $1.5 billion a year. For surgery patients who have acute respiratory failure, companies spend 52%, or $28,218, more on treatment. Post-operative infections cost an extra 48%, or $19,480, compared with patients who did not experience the error, according to the study.
AHRQ reviewed a sample of more than 161,000 patients between 18 and 64 years of age enrolled in employer-based health plans who had surgical procedures between 2001 and 2002. The study uses AHRQs 14 Patient Safety Indicators, or PSIs, to define medical errors. Researchers grouped the 14 indicators into seven categoriestechnical problems, infections, pulmonary and vascular problems, acute respiratory failure, metabolic problems, wound problems and nursing-sensitive events.
The 14 PSIs were involved in 11% of all deaths within 90 days of a major surgery, and costs of post-discharge care were higher than initial hospitalization expenses according to the report. This large difference in the return on patient safety could make many interventions more cost-effective than previously thought, researchers wrote in the report.
Medicare will stop paying for certain medical errors and hospital-acquired infections in October. Research conducted for Modern Healthcare showed the hospital industry stands to lose (print subscription required) at least $91 million a year from that policy. -- by Jean DerGurahian