Hospital Errors on the Decline

Say what you will about Obamacare, but according to a recent study, it may quite literally be a life saver.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (part of the Department for Health and Human Services) found 17-percent fewer deaths as a result of hospital errors between 2010 and 2014.

This translates into some pretty staggering numbers.  Including, roughly 87,000 fewer people dying and an estimated $19.8 billion saved in health care costs.

What gives?  Well, researchers attribute the improvement, in part, to the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act.  They say one of the goals of the initiative was to reduce incidents of medical mistakes or “hospital-acquired conditions” (HAC).

Preventing Hospital Errors

Unfortunately, money motivates, and the research shows before the Affordable Care Act, there were no financial incentives for physicians and hospitals to improve their quality of care.  With Obamacare hospitals are now rewarded for improvements.

Under the Affordable Care Act, hospitals can be penalized for higher rates of readmissions, HAC and preventable injuries (Medicare pays less to the institutions).  On the other hand, medical institutions that agree to implement “quality-enhancing measures” receive additional funding from the government.

Critics claim the decline in hospital errors can’t be fully attributed to the introduction of Obamacare. They say there has been a consistent decline in hospital errors since the 1990s when an Institute of Medicine report called "To Erris Human," prompted a movement to implement more rigid safety systems (such as checklists).

An original goal of the Affordable Care Act was a decrease in hospital errors of 40%, so patient safety advocates like Helen Haskell, founder of Mothers Against Medical Errors, say we’ve a long way to go.

It is also worth noting, the report suggests the improvement in hospital errors has actually slowed over the last year.

What are your thoughts?  Has the introduction of a checks and balance system in hospitals helped to  prevent unnecessary deaths or injuries?

 

Zachariah B. Parry is an attorney and founding partner at the law firm Parry & Pfau and is an adjunct professor who teaches torts, contracts, and Nevada practice and procedure for UNLV’s paralegal program. He can be reached at 702-912-4451 or zach@p2lawyers.com.