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ACA provision contributes to decline in hospital-acquired illness and injury

A patient is being prepped and coached just prior to undergoing a medical procedure that is about to take place in this hospital setting.
A patient is being prepped and coached just prior to undergoing a medical procedure that is about to take place in this hospital setting.
CDC/ T. Grace Emori

Infections, adverse drug reactions, and injuries from falls are all hazards patients face when admitted to a hospital for care. Incidents of these hospital-acquired conditions have declined 9 percent over 2011 and 2012. This decline has saved 15,000 lives and $4.1 billion in health care costs, according to a report released yesterday by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). A provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which authorizes funding of the Partnership for Patients initiative, is credited with this improvement in patient safety.

For every 1,000 patients discharged in 2010, 145 suffered harmful hospital-acquired conditions. Data for 2012 shows this number has dropped to 132 per thousand. This translates to 540,000 fewer incidents over the 2011-2012 period. HHS also reports a decline in the readmission rate for Medicare patients. The 30-day readmission rate dropped from 19 percent in 2011 to 17.5 percent in 2013. Between January 2012 and December 2013, approximately 150,000 fewer Medicare patients had to return to the hospital within 30 days of discharge. The ACA Admissions Reduction Program rewards hospitals for reducing Medicare patient readmission rates.

The HHS report highlighted the progress made in selected areas. Cases of Ventilator Associated Pneumonia decreased more than 53 percent since 2010. There were nearly 15 percent fewer incidents of falls and trauma in hospitals during the same period. Cases of obstetric trauma, which can lead to higher costs, longer hospital stays for childbirth and decreased health outcomes for women, declined 15.8 percent.

“We applaud the nationwide network of hospital systems and providers that are working together to save lives and reduce costs.” —HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

The Partnership for Patients initiative is an effort of hospitals, physicians, nurses, patients and businesses, in cooperation with the federal government and state governments, to make hospital care safer and less costly. More than 3,700 hospitals across the nation are participating in the program with the goal of reducing preventable hospital-acquired conditions and improving procedures for transitioning patients out of healthcare facilities. A key element of the initiative is to engage patients and families in their own healthcare to improve hospital safety and care transitions.