Posted On: October 9, 2011 by Patrick A. Malone

Will the Investment in Partnership for Patients Pay Off?

Fact: About 1 in 20 patients contracts an infection related to his or her hospital care.

Fact: An average of 1 in 7 Medicare beneficiaries is harmed in the course of his or her care, costing the government an estimated $4.4 billion every year.

Fact: Nearly 1 in 5 Medicare patients discharged from the hospital is readmitted within 30 days. That’s approximately 2.6 million seniors at a cost of over $26 billion annually.

In April, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius introduced a new program in which a coalition of health-care interests – hospitals, professional medical provider organizations, patient advocates, insurers, pharmaceutical companies – define and establish standards to turns these facts into old news.

Called the national Partnership for Patients (NPP), the program aims to address problems such as medication errors and lack of infection control that, Sebelius said, can happen “when hospitals do one thing, health plans do another and Medicare goes in a third direction.”

To see the generic pledge NPP members make, link here.

Sebelius said the administration’s Affordable Care Act would earmark as much as $1 billion in funding and considerable human resources to reach two primary goals for the next three years:


  • Keep patients from getting injured or sicker. Reduce preventable hospital injuries by 40 percent, which will prevent 1.8 million injuries and save 60,000 lives; and

  • Help patients heal without complication. Cut preventable hospital readmissions by 20 percent, which will save more than 1.6 million patients from complications prompting a return to the hospital.


That’s a ton of public money and staff time for a program to which only half of all U.S. hospitals have signed on, and only 22 assorted health-care organizations have made specific commitments to improve patient safety.

The effort is doomed to fail if it’s not embraced industry-wide with something more than lip service. It’s easy for a single establishment or organization to express support, and considerably more difficult for it to enumerate exactly how it intends to effect positive change.

Clearly, with so much energy and funding being directed to the NPP, the government must demand accountability. Sebelius’ promise that hospital Medicare and Medicaid payments would reward those delivering the best care nods toward that obligation, but patients and anybody who cares about hospital safety have a right to expect to be told the whole story as it unfolds. What have members promised to do? How is their progress being tracked and measured? What are the consequences of failure?

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