Healthcare facilities in the U.S. that can prove they have effective strategies for reducing rates of preventable hospital-acquired blood clots could win a cash prize of up to $10,000 from the federal government.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a nationwide challenge this week in search of best practices on venous thromboembolism (VTE) from hospitals, health systems and managed-care organizations.
VTE—or blood clots occurring as deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism or both—continue to be a major public health concern. The problem leads to approximately 100,000 premature deaths each year, and about half of all blood clots happen after a recent hospital stay or surgery, according to the CDC announcement.
The clots are the most common preventable cause of hospital death, yet effective pharmacologic prevention methods remain significantly underused. Fewer than half of hospital patients receive appropriate inpatient prevention methods, such as anticoagulants and compression devices, despite accepted evidence-based guidelines, federal health officials say.
The Partnership for Patients, an HHS program launched in 2011 through the Affordable Care Act, aims to significantly reduce rates of hospital-acquired conditions as part of its mission. Hospital Engagement Networks that participate in that program are required to focus attention on VTE as one of 10 core areas of patient harm.
However, other research has called into question whether post-operative blood clot rates are a valid measure of quality. A 2013 JAMA study found rates of VTE could be skewed by surveillance bias. Hospitals with more expansive screening criteria for the condition are more likely to report it, making their rates appear higher, the study found.
"We know it's hard to track. Right now there is no national surveillance," noted Michele Beckman, an epidemiologist in the division of blood disorders for the CDC. A lot of the data are outdated, not population-based, or rely on administrative data, which can result in both over- and underestimates of the rates. "That is why we are asking for strategies," Beckman said.
In the announcement Tuesday, CDC director Tom Frieden said the goal of the new challenge is to uncover best practices that can advance science and be shared to generate improvements in healthcare facilities with worse outcomes.
The submission process "requires data-driven information," Beckman added. Entrants can use retrospective analyses, but must be able to show marked improvement resulting from a given strategy, such as the implementation of protocols and risk assessments, or use of information technology and clinical decision support tools.
Entries will be accepted through Jan. 10 and the agency will award a maximum total of $70,000 to seven winners in a March announcement.
The initiative is a part of Challenge.gov, a federal program launched in 2010 to encourage innovative solutions to national problems by crowd-sourcing ideas. To date the website has hosted more than 450 competitions and awarded over $150 million in prizes across various sectors, including healthcare, education, defense and aeronautics.