How are Medicare Incentives Decreasing Patient Deaths?

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has reported that from 2010 to 2013, hospitals saw 50,000 fewer patient deaths.

During the CMS Quality Conference, HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced that preliminary data shows a 17% reduction in hospital-acquired conditions (HAC) and $12 billion in savings. Medicare hospital readmissions have also declined by 150,000 patients. As these numbers continue to increase, HHS has been analyzing which measures have been most effective.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the number of HAC reductions has steadily increased from 2011 (98,000) to 2013 (799,800), coming out to a cumulative of 1.3 million. Of those, 43.8% are attributed to a decrease in adverse drug events, 21.2% are attributed to a decrease in pressure ulcers, and 14.4% are attributed to a decrease in catheter-associated urinary tract infections.

Breaking down into specific numbers, declines in the following conditions produced the largest results:

  • Fewer pressure ulcers saved 20,272 lives and $4.7 billion
  • Fewer adverse drug events saved 11,540 lives and $2.9 billion
  • Fewer catheter-associated urinary tract infections saved 4,427 lives
  • Fewer surgical site infections saved $966 million

The Medicare payments offered as a part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have made certain provisions mandatory to help improve the quality of care patients receive. The numbers above show that these incentives are likely the reason for the decline in deaths.

While the results shows significant progress in improved care, as Burwell states, “it’s only a start.” There’s still a great deal of progress to be made in this area. As hospitals continue to engage in these practices and maintain their focus on improving patient care, it’s probable that we’ll see these numbers improve further in the coming years. The complete report can be found at the AHRQ website.

Author: Apoorva Anupindi

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