Employers looking for good news on patient safety got a mixed bag of recent news – especially the discouraging report that nearly half of American hospitals fall short in nursing standards.

 

According the Leapfrog Group, which surveys hospitals on an annual basis to determine compliance with safety standards, four out of 10 hospitals fail to meet national nursing workforce standards established by the National Quality Forum.

 

“Anyone who has ever been a patient in a hospital knows how critical the nurses are to health and life,” says Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group, “Employers and other purchasers that are part of Leapfrog’s movement appreciate the hospitals that voluntarily report this data to us – and then make a commitment to improve.”

Also see: Congressional support sought for health information technology

According to Jennifer Schneider, M.D., M.S., chief medical officer for Castlight Health, which analyzes Leapfrog's data, “This report underscores the importance of having an adequately resourced nurse staffing plan, embedding experienced nurses into senior management teams, and funding the maintenance of professional knowledge and skills.”

In a related development, Columbia Healthcare Analytics claims that, in many cases, blood transfusions are not necessary and often can have counterproductive if not fatal consequences.

For this reason, CHA has created External Review as a Service (ERaaS), a new tool to help educate physicians on the value of being selective in ordering blood transfusions.

So far, 28 hospitals have subscribed to this objective, web-based service. In one hospital, blood transfusions dropped by 50 percent, saving over $860,000. ERaaS addresses two of the actionable patient safety solutions dealing with blood-related services recommended by the Patient Safety Movement.

David Jadwin, developer of the service, points out that external review can also be used for other health care purposes. “ERaaS is designed to be educational, not adversarial,” he says. “Physicians submit their medical records to us and we review them for appropriateness based on diagnoses, treatment plans and other factors. Questionable decisions are flagged and shared with the doctors. In most cases, doctors are grateful to receive our evaluations. This has resulted in significant changes in attitudes, behaviors and practices, which are increasing quality and decreasing medical errors.”

Patient safety continues to be a major concern – and should be a high priority in health care reform – since medical errors made in hospitals and other health care settings are resulting in billions of dollars being spent on avoidable procedures and millions of patients being killed or seriously harmed.

Employers pay for these costs in the form of higher-than-necessary health care claims and premiums.  Also, the productivity and quality of life of employees suffer from such mistakes.

Ozga is president of Medical Business Exchange.

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