Reform Promotes Patient Safety By Creating Payment Incentives, Making Mistakes Public

The Albany Times Union: "More than a million Americans are harmed each year as a result of their medical care — not their underlying condition — and an estimated 100,000 die. Another 100,000 people die from hospital-acquired infections. In addition to expanding coverage to the uninsured, the health reform law attacks the problem of medical errors on two fronts: It establishes new payment incentives for safer care, and makes some mistakes public."

"Consumers Union, a nonprofit group that publishes Consumer Reports, analyzed the patient safety initiatives in the health reform law. The law uses Medicare payments to motivate hospitals. Those that reduce readmissions and have better outcomes in several areas — including care for heart attacks, pneumonia and preventing infections — will be rewarded with higher payments. Hospitals that have high rates of hospital-acquired conditions such as bed sores, falls and urinary tract infections caused by catheters will receive reduced payments. Medicare patients make up about half of all hospital visits, so changing the Medicare payment structure has the power to transform the entire industry, [Lisa McGiffert, director of the Consumers Union's Safe Patient project] said" (Crowley, 4/1).

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