Patient safety has long been a top priority for healthcare providers. And it was an inescapable and overarching theme once again in 2012, a year that included an unprecedented outbreak of fungal meningitis, the launch of a government program to curb hospital readmissions and more dispiriting news regarding the nation's lack of progress on persistent racial, ethnic and geographic health disparities.
More than 500 patients in 19 states, according to the federal count in mid-December, had been infected with fungal meningitis after receiving injections of contaminated steroids, distributed by the now-closed New England Compounding Center.
The outbreak has prompted a call for better, less-fragmented oversight of compounding facilities, which customize medications based on patients' individual needs and physicians' specifications. Two Democratic representatives in the U.S. House have introduced a bill that would tighten federal standards of such facilities, and several states are pondering similar efforts.