HAIs, hospital readmissions drop, HHS data shows

Efforts to reduce adverse drug events, falls, infections and other complications prevented nearly 15,000 hospital deaths and saved more than $4 billion in costs in 2011 and 2012, according to data from the Department of Health & Human Services.

Incidence of hospital-acquired infections dropped from 145 per 1,000 discharges in 2010 to 132 per 1,000 discharges in 2012, resulting in 560,000 fewer occurences in two years, according to the data. From 2010 through quarter-four 2013, specific conditions also saw declines:

  • Ventilator-associated pneumonia dropped 53.2 percent

  • Early elective delivery declined 64.5 percent

  • Obstetric trauma rate fell 15.8 percent

  • Venous thromboembolic complications dropped 12.9 percent

  • Falls and trauma declined 14.7 percent

  • Pressure ulcers fell 25.2 percent

The readmission rates among Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries, which remained between 19 and 19.5 percent from 2007 to 2011, dropped to 18.5 percent in 2012, then to 17.5 in 2013, in part because of the Affordable Care Act, according to the data. This meant 150,000 fewer readmissions between Jan. 2012 and Dec. 2013.

HHS credits public-private partnership, active patient and family engagement, and a wide range of federal programs and initiatives for the decline. "We applaud the nationwide network of hospital systems and providers that are working together to save lives and reduce costs," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.  "We are seeing a simultaneous reduction in hospital readmissions and injuries, giving patients confidence that they are receiving the best possible care and lowering their risk of having to be readmitted to the hospital after they get the care they need."

However, there's still work to do. Kevin Kavanagh, M.D., chairman of the consumer advocate group Health Watch America, told Kaiser Health News that the reduction in patient safety problems is "a small change" compared to the frequency that patients are harmed, according to the article.

"The critical next step is to share the successes and lessons learned broadly, so that others nationwide have the insight necessary to replicate the evidence-based best practices that QIOs (Quality Improvement Organizations) have established," Todd Ketch, executive director of the American Health Quality Association, said in a statement. "By improving the quality of care for Medicare patients, every American who accesses care in the U.S. healthcare system also benefits."

To learn more:
- here's the data
- read the HHS statement
- here's the KHN article
- check out the AHQA statement