On Friday, groups representing U.S. hospitals argued that data collection and hospital efforts to reduce patient harm have improved over the last 15 years, despite contradictory comments made a day earlier during a Senate hearing, Modern Healthcare reports (Rice, Modern Healthcare, 7/18).
On Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions’ Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging — called a hearing to highlight the high number of patient deaths associated with preventable hospital errors. He cited a recently published study in the Journal of Patient Safety, which found that as many as 400,000 patients each year suffer some type of preventable harm at a hospital that contributes to their death.
At the hearing, medical experts told lawmakers that health IT tools, such as electronic health records, are falling short in efforts to improve patient safety.
Ashish Jha, professor of health policy and management at Harvard School of Public Health, said most hospitals do not track adverse events, despite having the technology to do so and, therefore, do not know how often patients are harmed.
Experts during the hearing made several recommendations, including to:
- Improve IT systems to minimize cognitive mistakes;
- Incentivize a focus on patient safety; and
- Implement reliable data, metrics and monitoring systems (iHealthBeat, 7/18)
Rosemary Gibson, an adviser at the Hastings Center, said, “In the absence of [comprehensive data], we’re left with estimates.”
Hospital Groups Respond
Several hospital associations rebutted the comments, noting there are data that show improvements. In addition, they said data that do not show improvements might be misleading.
For example, Federation of American Hospitals President and CEO Chip Kahn said the baseline data and research do “not reflect the reality of care in the hospital today, much less 15 years ago,” adding that data collection has improved and new measurements for safety have been developed.
In addition, Nancy Foster, vice president for quality and patient safety policy at the American Hospital Association, said there have been noticeable improvements among central line blood stream infections, early-elective deliveries and patient falls. She added that “on the measures where nationally representative data is collected, it’s easy to point to advances” (Modern Healthcare, 7/18).