News & Commentary

Progress Seen In Hospital Safety


The U.S. avoided 350,000 hospital-acquired conditions (HACs) for Medicare beneficiaries between 2014 and 2016, representing a decline of 8% that saved $2.9 billion in costs, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). In addition, about 8,000 deaths were averted.

The HACs in AHRQ’s tally include adverse drug events, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, central line–associated bloodstream infections, Clostridium difficile infections, falls, obstetric adverse events, pressure ulcers, surgical site infections, ventilator-associated pneumonias, post-op venous thromboembolisms, and various other HACs.

CMS wants to reduce HACs by 20% by 2019. If that goal is met, AHRQ says that it would mean 1.8 million fewer patients with HACs, 53,000 fewer deaths, and $19.1 billion in savings.

The reduction in HACs continues a trend. From 2010 to 2014, HAC reductions totaled 2.1 million. That meant about $19.9 billion in savings and 87,000 fewer deaths.

Two categories saw increases from 2014 to 2016: catheter-associated urinary tract infections (up 36,000), and pressure ulcers (up 127,000) from the 2014 baseline rate.

The HAC effort is spearheaded by CMS’s Hospital Improvement Innovation Networks, which disseminates best practices for avoiding HACs to about 4,000 of the country’s approximately 5,000 hospitals. HIINs provide direct technical assistance.