News and Commentary

Biz Group Warns Hospitals To Move Quickly on Quality

Value-based purchasing, a concept that generates lofty discussion but is not always practiced by employers, took a leap forward with the endorsement of a bloc of some of the nation's largest companies.

The Leapfrog Group, whose 60 companies include AT&T, General Electric, and General Motors, threatened to take $40 billion in health care spending to hospitals that have fewer preventable deaths and health plans that support those goals.

Acting on recommendations in the Institute of Medicine's 1999 report on medical error-related deaths, Leapfrog wants hospitals to require physicians to prescribe medications on handheld computers that can flag drug interactions. It also wants HMOs to refer patients for some elective surgeries to hospitals that perform those procedures frequently.

Hospitals say the goals are noble, but too costly for many hospitals to implement.

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations wants hospitals to give patients an honest explanation when serious errors do occur. To that end, it has added such a requirement to its accreditation standards.

Being honest has more than just an altruistic side. Evidence suggests that hospitals that offer straightforward explanations benefit from fewer — and less-costly — malpractice suits.

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