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4/18/2011
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Patient Safety Initiative To Leverage Health IT

The $1 billion federal Partnership for Patients initiative aims to cut $35 billion in healthcare costs, save 60,000 lives, and decrease hospital-acquired conditions by 40% by 2013.

Health IT Boosts Patient Care, Safety
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Slideshow: Health IT Boosts Patient Care, Safety
A $1 billion public-private program aimed at reducing healthcare costs and improving patient safety likely will dovetail with federal efforts to push greater use of health IT, a major government contractor said, but the plan so far is scant on detail.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) April 12 announced the formation of Partnership for Patients, an initiative to prevent harm in healthcare by asking hospitals to concentrate on nine types of medical errors and other care-related complications including bedsores, adverse drug reactions, injuries from falls, surgical-site infections, and urinary tract infections from catheters.

HHS said it will funnel as much as $500 million from funds authorized by last year's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to the nascent Innovation Center at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to support demonstration programs that test ways of reducing hospital-acquired conditions. Another $500 million will go to a new effort called the Community-Based Care Transitions program to help reduce complications, and ultimately prevent hospital readmissions, when patients are transferred between care settings.

Federal officials expect the program to save 60,000 lives over a three-year period, prevent millions of adverse events, and save as much as $35 billion nationwide, including $10 billion for Medicare. "By the end of 2013, preventable hospital-acquired conditions would decrease by 40% compared to 2010. Achieving this goal would mean approximately 1.8 million fewer injuries to patients, with more than 60,000 lives saved over the next three years," according to the Partnership for Patients website.

Success in improving care transitions would cut readmissions within 30 days of discharge by 20% by 2013, compared to 2010 levels, preventing the rehospitalization of 1.6 million patients, HHS said.

More than 500 hospitals have agreed to participate, according to HHS. An unspecified number of physician and nurses groups, consumer advocacy organizations, and employers also have signed up, government officials said.

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

"No single entity can improve care for millions of hospital patients alone," Berwick added. "Through strong partnerships at national, regional, state, and local levels--including the public sector and some of the nation's largest companies--we are supporting the hospital community to significantly reduce harm to patients."

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