Patient Care

Eliminating Adverse Events and Redundant Tests Could Generate U.S. Healthcare Savings


Clinical question: Using available data, what is the estimated cost savings of eliminating adverse events and avoiding redundant tests?

Background: Reimbursement schemes are changing such that hospitals are reimbursed less for some adverse events. This financial disincentive is expected to spark interest in improved patient safety. The authors sought to model the cost savings generated by eliminating redundant testing and adverse events from literature-based estimates.

Study design: Development of conceptual model to identify common or costly adverse events, redundant tests, and simulated costs.

Setting: Literature review, expert opinion, data from safety organizations and epidemiologic studies, and patient data from the 2004 National Inpatient Data Sample.

Synopsis: The conceptual model identified 5.7 million adverse events in U.S. hospitals, of which 3 million were considered preventable. The most common events included hospital-acquired infections (82% preventable), adverse drug events (26%), falls (33%), and iatrogenic thromboembolic events (62%). The calculated cost savings totaled $16.6 billion (5.5% of total inpatient costs) for adverse events and $8.2 billion for the elimination of redundant tests. When looking at hospital subtypes, the greatest savings would come from major teaching hospitals.

This study is limited by its use of published and heterogeneous data spanning a 15-year period. The authors did not include events for which there was no epidemiologic or cost data. As hospital-care changes and technology is adopted, it is uncertain how this changes the costs, prevalence, and the preventable nature of these events. The model was not consistently able to identifying high- and low-risk patients. For instance, in some models, all patients were considered at risk for events.

Bottom line: Based on a conceptual model of 2004 hospitalized patients, eliminating preventable adverse events could have saved $16.6 billion, while eliminating redundant tests could have saved another $8 billion.

Citation: Jha AK, Chan DC, Ridgway AB, Franz C, Bates DW. Improving safety and eliminating redundant tests: cutting costs in U.S. hospitals. Health Aff (Millwood). 2009;28(5):1475-1484.

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