Partnership for Patients brings a spotlight and an energy to the issue that will last long beyond the 24 months of this program.
—Katharine Luther, RN, MPM, vice president of hospital portfolio planning and administration, Institute for Healthcare Improvement
Last April, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) unveiled “Partnership for Patients,” a landmark event in the patient safety movement that put a national spotlight on the continuing need to improve healthcare safety and quality. A year later, the initiative is getting off the ground, attempting to tackle ambitious goals and overcome methodological hurdles in a very tight timeframe.
Partnership for Patients is a $1 billion, nationwide educational collaborative in which participants pledge that they will try to achieve two things by the end of 2013: Reduce the incidence of preventable hospital-acquired conditions by 40% compared to 2010, and decrease preventable complications during transitions of care to reduce hospital readmissions by 20% compared with 2010.
More than 3,000 hospitals and 2,000 physician and nursing organizations have signed the pledge, and CMS recently awarded contracts to 26 Hospital Engagement Networks (HENs)—state, regional, and national hospitals and health systems that will serve as mobile classrooms that mentor as they implement new intervention strategies, track progress on quality improvement (QI), and develop learning collaboratives to spread effective interventions. CMS also has contracted with outside firms to create patient safety training materials, engage with patients and families to foster more patient-centered care, and evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the initiative.
SHM was one of the first physician groups to sign on to the initiative’s pledge of support, and both its Project BOOST (to reduce preventable readmissions) and its VTE Resource Room (to prevent hospital-acquired venous thromboembolism) are among the resources it is making available to the initiative’s HENs, says Wendy Nickel, MPH, associate vice president of SHM’s Center for Hospital Innovation and Improvement.
Despite success stories at some institutions in recent years, patient safety improvement still has far to go at U.S. hospitals. Currently, about 1 in every 20 patients acquires an infection in the hospital, 1 in 7 Medicare patients is harmed in the course of their hospital care, and nearly 1 in 5 is readmitted within 30 days of discharge. CMS estimates that meeting the goals of Partnership for Patients would mean more than 60,000 lives saved over the next three years and over 1.6 million patients spared a preventable complication requiring re-hospitalization within 30 days of discharge—all of which could save Medicare $50 billion over the next 10 years.1
While the initiative’s goals are certainly worthy, it remains to be seen how prepared hospitals are to achieve them, and whether available metrics are up to the task.
“The initiative is a positive step to improve collaboration among government, communities, and hospital sites in service of better patient care and safety—and so it deserves our endorsement,” says Greg Maynard, MD, MSc, SFHM, health sciences professor of medicine at the University of California at San Diego, director of the UC San Diego Center for Innovation and Improvement Science, and senior vice president of SHM’s Center for Hospital Innovation and Improvement. “But it’s an open question how successful it will be, since it offers no monetary piece of the pie to participating hospitals, and no financial penalties for failing to achieve its goals. The whole project feels rushed, for a major initiative like this, with such ambitious goals.”
The primary “carrot” the initiative offers hospitals, Dr. Maynard notes, is access to patient safety improvement expertise and resources that they would otherwise have to purchase on their own, including training materials, implementation guides, webinars, and site visits by HEN representatives.