Five-year decline in hospital-acquired conditions leads to $28B in savings

A new government report finds that hospital patients experienced more than 3 million fewer hospital-acquired conditions, such as adverse drug events, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, central line associated bloodstream infections, pressure ulcers and surgical site infections, from 2010-2015.

Fewer patients have died due to hospital-acquired conditions over the past five years and hospitals saved more than $28 billion in healthcare costs during the same time period, according to a new federal government report.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services credits the 21 percent decline in hospital-acquired conditions in part to the provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

“The Affordable Care Act gave us tools to build a better healthcare system that protects patients, improves quality, and makes the most of our healthcare dollars and those tools are generating results,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell in the announcement. “Today’s report shows us hundreds of thousands of Americans have been spared from deadly hospital-acquired conditions, resulting in thousands of lives saved and billions of dollars saved.”

Indeed, the report, “National Scorecard on Rates of Hospital-Acquired Conditions,” by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, finds that roughly 125,000 fewer patients died during 2010 to 2015. In total, hospital patients experienced more than 3 million fewer hospital-acquired conditions, such as adverse drug events, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, central line associated bloodstream infections, pressure ulcers and surgical site infections, during that time period.

 
Change in HACs, 2011-2015 (Total = 3,097,400)
Source: AHRQ National Scorecard Estimates from Medicare Patient Safety Monitoring System, National Healthcare Safety Network, and Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project.

The data is considered interim because the government will add information from the last quarter of 2015 in the next few months. However, officials said they don’t expect the findings to change significantly.

Last year the government announced that 87,000 fewer patients died due to HAIs, a savings of $20 billion in healthcare costs, from 2010 to 2014. But patient safety experts interviewed at that time questioned the significance of the findings, stating that the savings were likely due to the easiest problems to solve.

The latest report was released in the wake of a Consumer Reports investigation, which found that teaching hospitals have made little progress in reducing central-line infections since 2011. Those types of preventable adverse incidents make up only 5% of HAIs but are deadly in up to a quarter of the cases.

But based on the latest government findings, hospitals and health systems should take great pride in the progress they have made, Jay Bhatt, chief medical officer of the American Hospital Association and president of AHA’s Health Research & Educational Trust, said in the announcement.

"Not only have they saved lives, but they’ve also developed tremendous capacity to tackle safety challenges—a foundation that will help them get to zero incidents,” he said.

Total Annual and Cumulative Deaths Averted (Compared With 2010 Baseline)
Source: AHRQ National Scorecard Estimates from Medicare Patient Safety Monitoring System, National Healthcare Safety Network, and Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project.