HHS: Hospital errors, readmissions drop under ObamaCare

The number of patients who were injured or became ill during a hospital stay dropped 17 percent since the start of ObamaCare, saving about $12 billion in healthcare costs, according to new government data.

Strides in patient safety saved the lives of about 50,000 patients and prevented 1.3 million avoidable hospital-related accidents or illnesses since 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Monday.

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The prevalence of adverse drug events, bloodstream infections, pressure ulcers and ventilator-associated pneumonia each declined by 25 percent.

HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell told a roomful of Medicaid and Medicare providers on Tuesday that the findings represented “dramatic improvements in patient safety.”

“Think of the difference it makes to a family to have a loved one home for the holidays instead of in the hospital,” she told a crowd at the CMS Quality Conference in Baltimore.

She touted the ways that the Obama administration has tried to make costs and quality information more transparent and to expand the use of electronic health information, all in an effort to “bolster clinical decision-making.”

“I believe that as Americans, we will receive better care — and spend our dollars more wisely — if we find better ways to deliver care, pay providers and distribute information,” she said.

The report says that while the causes of the decline may not be fully attributed to ObamaCare, “the increase in safety has occurred during a period of concerted attention by hospitals throughout the country to reduce adverse events.”

It specifically points to a Medicare payment program that refunds less money if hospitals have high readmission rates, as well as the public-private alliance called Partnership for Patients.

Burwell said the progress in patient safety was helping to move the country away from a healthcare system which “simply did not make sense.”

“We waited until patients got sick in order to treat them, rather than focusing on prevention.  Our payment models incentivized volume rather than value,” she said.

HHS took its first big step to reduce hospital mistakes in 2005 with the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act. The department continued to roll out patient safety rules until 2008, just two years before ObamaCare was passed.

Attention returned to reform in 2010 when data found the rate of harm among Medicare patients was 27 percent. Almost half of the incidents were considered preventable.

HHS now analyzes up to 33,000 medical records each year in an effort to reduce the total amount of preventable harm by 40 percent.

This post was updated at 9:15 a.m.