Consumer group says 10 basic safety reforms could save $35B/year

Consumer group Public Citizen has released a list of 10 basic patient safety reforms it says could save 85,000 lives and $35 billion per year if implemented.

In a new report, Public Citizen analyzes several studies of treatment protocols for chronically recurring, avoidable medical errors. Most reforms emerging from the research involve fundamentals like consistent hand washing, tending patients carefully enough to prevent bed sores and following a checklist to prevent infections and complications from operations.

If such precautions aren't observed, the group notes, the costs are huge. For example, severe pressure ulcers cost an average of $70,000 each to treat, catheter infections $45,000, and avoidable surgical errors collectively cost $20 billion a year.

Public Citizen proposes that providers use checklists to avoid surgical deaths and injuries, saving $20 billion a year; use best practices to prevent vent-associated pneumonia, saving 32,000 live and $900 million a year; use best practices to prevent pressure ulcers, saving 14,071 lives and $5.5 billion a year; put safeguards in place to cut medication errors, saving 4,620 lives and $2.3 billion a year; and use best practices to prevent patient falls, saving $1.5 billion per year.

They also propose checklists to prevent catheter infections, saving 15,680 lives and $1.3 billion a year; Slightly improving nurse staffing ratios, saving 5,000 lives and $24 million a year; permitting standing orders to increase flu and pneumococcal vaccinations, saving 9,250 live in $545 million a year; using beta-blockers after heart attacks, saving 3,600 lives and $900,000; and increasing use of advanced care planning, saving $3.2 billion a year.

To learn more about these proposals:
- read this Health Leaders Media piece

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