U.S. pledges $1 billion to improve hospital outcomes

    The federal Department of Health and Human Services Tuesday pledged $1 billion to decrease hospital-acquired conditions by 40 percent and hospital readmissions by 20 percent in the next three years.

    HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the new Partnerships for Patients, which will bring together hospitals, employers, doctors and patient advocates, has the potential to save 60,000 lives and $35 billion in the next three years.

    Among other programs, the initiative aims to bring doctors together to develop and implement plans to reduce a targeted group of nine common conditions that start in hospitals. They include bed sores, dangerous blood clots, and complications during childbirth and infections following surgery.

    Dr. P.J. Brennan, chief medical officer for Penn Health Systems, called the goal “audacious,” but said he was glad to see such an outpouring of federal support for the area.

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    “I think that for all of these conditions, we really have the knowledge as to the cause of these events,” Brennan said. “What we need to do better is implement the processes to prevent them.”

    Local and regional groups have been creating similar partnerships for years.

    Kate Flynn is president of the Healthcare Improvement Foundation, a nonprofit that works with more than 50 hospitals in Philadelphia and the four surrounding counties. Her group has focused recently on preventing bed sores and a common intestinal infection. After organizing face-to-face workshops for health-care providers and distributing detailed instructions based on, Flynn said rates for both decreased by about one-fourth.

    Flynn said she sees a federal-level program as a way to focus efforts and increase funding for evidence-based programs.

    “There are a hundred different areas requiring improvement that we can all be working on in a very scattered way,” Flynn said. “By everyone sort of focusing on this more limited number of high-impact areas, we can really make a difference as opposed to a lot of scattered efforts all around the country.”

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