New government patient safety program will need health IT

The government's new $1 billion patient safety initiative, authorized by the Affordable Care Act, has sizable implications for health IT.

Half of the money in the Partnership for Patients program will be dispensed to hospitals and community-based organizations that partner to improve safety during transitions of care. Among the activities that will be funded, according to a fact sheet from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), are "post-discharge education, medication review and management, and patient-centered self-management support within 24 hours of discharge." Some of this undoubtedly will require health IT support.

Moreover, the reduction of hospital readmissions--another aim of the Partnership for Patients initiative--will necessitate improved communications among providers and between providers and patients. The use of health IT tools such as interoperable electronic health records, patient registries and remote patient monitoring can help achieve this goal.

The rest of the money for the patient safety program will come from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, which will spend $500 million "to test different models of improving patient care and patient engagement and collaboration in order to reduce hospital-acquired conditions and improve care transitions nationwide."

HHS has asked the 500 hospitals that have volunteered to participate in the public/private program to focus initially on nine issues, including adverse drug events, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, central-line infections, pressure ulcers, and surgical site infections. While process changes will be needed to reduce the incidence of these events, health IT will be required to measure the improvement.

The two main goals of the Partnership for Patients program are to decrease by 2013 the number of hospital-acquired conditions by 40 percent, compared to 2010, and to cut hospital readmissions by 20 percent. 

To learn more:
- read the HHS press release
- browse through the fact sheet
- check out this Health Data Management article