The Department of Health and Human Services has released preliminary estimates showing 50,000 fewer patients died in hospitals and approximately $12 billion in healthcare cost savings because of decreased hospital-acquired conditions (HACs) from 2010 to 2013.

Over the three-year period, HACs declined 17 percent from 145 to 121 instances per 1,000 discharges. A cumulative total of 1.3 million fewer HACs were experienced by hospital patients, according to HHS’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. AHRQ reports that in 2013 alone almost 35,000 fewer patients died in hospitals and about 800,000 fewer incidents of harm occurred, saving approximately $8 billion. HACs include adverse drug events, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, central line associated bloodstream infections, pressure ulcers, and surgical site infections, among others. 

“Although the precise causes of the decline in patient harm are not fully understood, the increase in safety has occurred during a period of concerted attention by hospitals throughout the country to reduce adverse events, spurred in part by Medicare payment incentives and catalyzed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Partnership for Patients initiative led by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services,” states the AHRQ report.

Launched in 2011, the goal of the Partnership for Patients initiative is to target a specific set of HACs for reductions through public-private partners—including hospitals and other providers—working collaboratively to identify and leverage best practices that improve patient safety in acute care hospitals and improve coordination of care at discharge to prevent readmissions. Ultimately, the goal of the Partnership for Patients is to reduce preventable harm by 40 percent and to cut 30-day readmissions by 20 percent.

“Never before have we been able to bring so many hospitals, clinicians and experts together to share in a common goal—improving patient care,” said Rich Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association, in a written statement. “We have built an ‘infrastructure of improvement’ that will aid hospitals and the healthcare field for years to come and has spurred the results you see today.”

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