The new Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “Partnership for Patients” is a relatively new collaborative effort between the federal government, hospitals, care providers and community organizations that aims to reduce hospital-acquired conditions and readmissions caused by bad care.

The initiative represents an important effort to make patient safety a priority and sets goals to reduce medical harm, according to Consumers Union, the nonprofit publishers of Consumer Reports.

The Obama Administration launched the Partnership for Patients: Better Care, Lower Costs, a new public-private partnership that will help improve the quality, safety, and affordability of health care for all Americans. The Partnership for Patients brings together leaders of major hospitals, employers, physicians, nurses, and patient advocates along with state and federal governments in a shared effort to make hospital care safer, more reliable, and less costly.

The two goals of this new partnership are to first keep patients from getting injured or sicker. By the end of 2013, preventable hospital-acquired conditions would decrease by 40% compared to 2010. Achieving this goal would mean approximately 1.8 million fewer injuries to patients with more than 60,000 lives saved over three years.

The second major goal is to help patients heal without complication. By the end of 2013, preventable complications during a transition from one care setting to another would be decreased so that all hospital readmissions would be reduced by 20% compared to 2010. Achieving this goal would mean more than 1.6 million patients would recover from illness without suffering a preventable complication requiring re-hospitalization within 30 days of discharge.

Achieving both of these milestones would save lives and prevent injuries to millions of Americans, and has the potential to save up to $35 billion dollars across the health care system, including up to $10 billion in Medicare savings, over the next three years. Over the next ten years, it could reduce costs to Medicare by about $50 billion and result in billions more in Medicaid savings.

Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project states:

“We’ve known for years that millions of Americans are unnecessarily harmed in the hospital every year from preventable infections and other medical errors. A high-profile, coordinated, national response to our patient safety crisis is long overdue. We are encouraged that the Obama administration is making patient safety a national priority. Public reporting of each hospital’s patient safety track record is the best way to measure whether this effort is successful.”

In a recent study, 17% of respondents indicated that they thought their doctor or other hospital staff would always inform them when a medical error was made during treatment even though 97% always wanted to be informed. Forty-seven percent said that they expected to be informed rarely or never when medical errors occurred.

Editor-in-Chief of Health Affairs Susan Dentzer says:

“Without doubt, we’ve seen improvements in health care over the past decade, and even pockets of excellence, but overall progress has been agonizingly slow. It’s clear that we still have a great deal of work to do in order to achieve a health care system that is consistently high-quality; that is, safe, effective, patient-centered, efficient, timely, and devoid of disparities based on race or ethnicity.”

The Partnership for Patients seeks to reduce hospital-acquired conditions by 40% by the end of 2013 compared to 2010. It aims to reduce preventable complications so that all hospital readmissions are reduced by 20% by the end of 2013 compared to 2010. Under the Partnership, the federal government will provide resources to encourage hospitals to implement strategies to improve patient safety and partner with the private sector on using incentives to enhance the quality and safety of care.

McGiffert concludes:

“Too many lives have been lost because hospitals have failed to consistently follow procedures we know will keep patients safe. This new national strategy establishes a plan for improving care and saving precious lives and healthcare dollars. Consumers Union will work with its network of activists across the country to monitor the implementation of this initiative to ensure that it leads to measurable change.”

Sources: Health Affairs and

Written by Sy Kraft