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Welcome solutions to problems that probably should not have arisen are currently being implemented across the United States through a public-private initiative called the Partnership for Patients.

Launched in April 2011 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and hundreds of hospitals, insurance companies, and doctors and nurses associations, the partnership recommits everyone in healthcare to keeping hospital patients from suffering new injuries or becoming sicker while receiving treatment. Partnership members have also taken on the goal of helping patients heal without suffering complications.

The partnership will identify and encourage widespread adoption of best practices to limit or eliminate hospital-acquired infections, prescription drug errors and pressure ulcers, which are commonly known as bedsores. Reduced to numbers of lives and dollars and sense, the goals are to save 60,000 patients from dying through the end of 2014 and to cut spending on responding to preventable medical mistakes by $35 billion over the next three years.

On June 7, 2011, HHS Secretary Katherine Sebelius visited partnership member Sentara Healthcare to discuss the program’s goals and praise a successful patient risk-reduction strategy now being used at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

Sebelius told health care providers and administrators, "Too many patients are harmed by the care that they get in a hospital, not what brought them to the hospital. Whether it’s one out of three, or one out of six, or one out of seven, it’s too many." She also singled out Sentara’s eICU as an innovation that is helping reduce, sometimes to zero, otherwise common preventable complications such as blood infections caused by infrequent changing of central line tubing or pneumonia related to inserted breathing tubes.

The Virginian-Pilot explained in its report on Sebelius’ visit that eICU employs advanced computer technology to allow a small team of doctors and nurses to closely monitor patients in several intensive care units and to quickly respond when problems arise.

Medical malpractice, doctor mistakes, nursing neglect and surgical errors constitute the bulk of my case load as a Virginia Beach, VA-based personal injury attorney. I often wish that wasn’t true. Patients seek medical care so they can heal; they should never leave a clinic, hospital or doctor’s office worse off than when they arrived. So while, as I wrote at the beginning of this post, a program like the Partnership for Patients should not have been necessary, I am pleased it exists and want it to succeed.


About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.

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