Does Medicare's preventable-complication policy actually work?

Improving care quality is a major goal for healthcare and part of that strategy is Medicare's policy of denying hospitals payments to treat preventable complications, and instead, providing incentives for outcomes rather than care volume. But it's hard to tell whether that strategy works, according to Forbes contributor Peter Ubel, M.D., of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Ubel cited a March study in JAMA Internal Medicine that found patient harms, such as pressure ulcers and falls resulting in injuries, declined since 2008, when Medicare began the policy. But the decrease predates the policy and hasn't accelerated since. However, other preventable conditions such as catheter-associated urinary tract infections saw a sharp decline in 2008, suggesting the policy may be effective but further study is needed. Column