Avoiding the #3 Cause of Death in the USA: US Hospitals & What You Need To Know About It – Part 2

The gauntlet had been laid.  Don Berwick and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) had challenged hospitals in America to save 100,000 lives.  Time was ticking away, educational programs, mentoring, training had begun but would they achieve the goal?

Eighteen months later on June 14th 2006 at 9 a.m. – Dr. Berwick took the stage to announce the results: “Hospitals enrolled in the 100,000 Lives Campaign have collectively prevented an estimated 122,300 avoidable deaths and, as importantly, have begun to institutionalize the new standards of care that will continue to save lives and improve health outcomes into the future.”

But that was only the beginning.  Remember, if there are 5,723 registered hospitals in the US, this initiative got 2,300 of them to commit in the first few months.  By the end of the campaign 3,100 hospitals had enlisted.  But thousands of Americans were still dying in US hospitals from preventable causes each month.  So the IHI moved the goal – in December 2006, IHI launched a second, expanded effort, the Five Million Lives campaign.   At its formal close in December 2008, the Campaign celebrated the enrollment of 4,050 hospitals, with more than 2,000 facilities pursuing each of the Campaign’s 12 interventions to reduce infection, surgical complication, medication errors, and other forms of unreliable care in facilities. Eight states enrolled 100% of their hospitals in the Campaign, and 18 states enrolled over 90% of their hospitals in the Campaign.

In 2011 the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Dr. Berwick launched the Partnership for Patients, which brings together hospitals, employers, physicians, nurses, and patient advocates along with state and federal governments in an effort to make hospital care safer, more reliable, and less costly.  The Partnership for Patients aimed to decrease preventable hospital-acquired conditions by 40 percent by the end of 2013, resulting in approximately 1.8 million fewer injuries to patients and more than 60,000 lives saved over the next three years. It also sought to reduce hospital readmissions by 20 percent by decreasing the rate of preventable complications during transitions from one care setting to another. The Partnership was to be funded by up to $1 billion in federal money made available under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, including $500 million through the Community-Based Care Transitions Program and up to $500 million through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation.    At the core of this initiative are 26 Hospital Engagement Networks, with 3,700 hospitals, working with health care providers and institutions to identify best practices and solutions to reduce hospital acquired conditions and readmissions.  Early results are showing strong progress in 8 of the 10 patient safety priority areas of the Partnership for Patients, more findings are scheduled to be released soon.

But recall that only 3,700 of the 5,723 hospitals in the US are engaged, meaning that over 2,000 hospitals are not on board and thousands of Americans are still suffering unnecessarily.  And recognize that this is looking at the prevention of adverse events, not at which institutions are the best at different procedures.  The best spine hospital may not be (and often isn’t) the best heart surgery facility in your community.

So how do you find the right hospital?  It takes research and time. It also takes a willingness to sift through a lot of different data to tease out what information would be important to you. Let’s think through a visit to the hospital – the quality of the health care a patient receives depends on many things besides the skill of the surgeon. Many health care providers at a hospital will be directly involved in care before, during, and after surgery. The metrics a patient will want to know span a broad spectrum of considerations, from scientific data on mortality and complications associated with previous treatment of patients with the same condition to the more subjective data on how patients respond to the physician and staff managing their care.

A result of this complexity in defining a good hospital is the proliferation of information sites that exist. In addition to the payers websites (carriers who are often dependent on contracting agreements with the hospitals), patients can go to anything from yelp.com and Angie’s List (which also provide reviews on low complexity services like dry cleaning), to state report card sites or national sites such as Hospital Compare which may or may not have information on metrics associated with your condition. For heavier science aficionados, there are reporting agencies like CareChecks and The Dartmouth Atlas which may look at patient outcomes on a larger system level. Reports are also often put out by institutions such as the Kaiser Foundation or Commonwealth Fund that speak to hospital quality.  Somewhere in the middle of this very complex gamut are sites like Vitals or Health Grades. More traditional outlets such as Consumer Reports or the US News & World Report create hospital listings as well.

But it is not just the hospital.  The doctor and the care team he or she works with make a significant difference.  In the next blog we will consider how to find and use these “best in class” doctors.

Wow. It's Quiet Here...

Be the first to start the conversation!

Leave a Reply:

Gravatar Image

XHTML: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>