Deadly medical errors at hospitals are down, according to a recent report from Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality(AHRQ).
Pinpointing the exact reasons for the change or to predict whether the decline will continue, is difficult if not impossible. Over the last year, improvement has slowed. But, analysts suggest that government initiatives within the Affordable Care Act are largely to credit for the progress thus far.
In other words, Obamacare may be saving lives; literally.
The AHRQ, is the in-house think-tank of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and is dedicated to making medical care standards safer and more effective. The agency has been tracking the incidence of common and frequently fatal medical errors which spans nurses accidentally giving the wrong medication to doctors inserting an IV line that leads to a blood-borne infection.
Existing research about patients who become sick in the hospital and what it costs to treat them afterwards, has declined and works out to 87,000 lives saved and an estimated $19.8 billion not spent on extra medical care.
“We have never demonstrated a comparable decline in the history of the U.S. health system,” said David Blumenthal, a physician and researcher who also served in the Obama administration.
Generally speaking, current progress dates back to the 1990s, when the Institute of Medicine released, “To Err Is Human,” a seminal report suggesting some 100,000 people were dying each year due to preventable medical mistakes. Most notably was the introduction of checklists, similar to those used by airplane pilots before takeoff, but in this case to make surgeries safer.
It has been an upward battle to get hospitals to adopt these methods, in part because existing financial incentives didn’t reward hospitals for improving quality. In fact, hospitals were collecting money for every new treatment and patient who became sick in the hospital and in need of more care, rather than less.
After last year’s results showed a steep decline in errors, several experts agreed the law’s new incentives were influencing hospital behavior — and that, as a result, patients were getting better care. “I think these data reliable, and the ACA (Affordable Care Act) deserves credit,” Lucian Leape, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and a pioneer in the patient safety movement, told Politifact.
Here is a video illustrating the serious issue associated with preventable medical mistakes: