Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Penalties Lead to Better Business, Better Health Care

Most of us were shocked by the Institute of Medicine (IOM)’s 1999 report To Err Is Human, where we learned that approximately 98,000 deaths each year in U.S. hospitals were attributable to medical error. That number is approximately the population of Albany, New York, or Boulder, Colorado. Imagine a city of approximately 100,000 people totally wiped out because someone made a mistake. Oops! does not begin to cover it.

Speed up to 8 years later, when a 2007 report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found an improvement of only 1% per year following publication of the IOM report. A 1% reduction rate was better than going backward, but still nothing to write home about when human lives are at risk. Something had to happen.

And did it ever. The face of reimbursement changed so dramatically as to rock the healthcare world. As of October 2008, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services put their foot down, hard, and it reverberated alarmingly across the nation when they declared they would no longer pay for additional costs related to many preventable errors, such as Never Events. Private insurers followed suit.

Never Events are exactly what they imply: these are events that should n-e-v-e-r happen to a patient. These are events that can subject the patient to unnecessary suffering, threaten life, or cause death. These are events that are preventable.

Never Events include but are not limited to retention of foreign objects following surgery, air embolism, transfusion with wrong blood type, stage III and IV pressure ulcers, falls, traumas such as burns or electric shock, consequences of poor glycemic control, catheter-associated urinary tract infection, vascular catheter-associated infection, certain surgical-site infections, and much more.

These Never Events do not come cheap. According to a meta-analysis study on the costs of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) published online in JAMA Internal Medicine in September 2013, on a per-case basis, central-line‒associated bloodstream infections were found to be the most costly of HAIs at $45,814 per case; followed by ventilator-associated pneumonia,$40,144; surgical-site infections, $20,785; Clostridium difficile infection, $11,285; and, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, $896. The study estimated total annual costs for five major HAIs to be $9.8 billion.

If you want to hit health care where it hurts, aim for the pocketbook. Not to be reimbursed for such medical errors can be catastrophic to a hospital’s budget. Naturally, medical facilities are under pressure to reduce these errors and the attendant penalties.

More pressure is applied with the public reporting of Never Events. It is hoped that financial penalties and public reporting will up accountability and lead the way to improved quality of patient care. The game has changed. Medical facilities are getting the picture: improved patient care can be very good for the bottom line.

The race is on to find solutions to help reduce preventable events such as costly HAIs. That’s where companies with infection-control solutions, such as those offered by Seal Shield, can help facilities reach their goal of zero infections. Zero infections can mean a small fortune saved by the hospital. More importantly, it can mean human suffering reduced and more lives saved.

Seal Shield’s antimicrobial-impregnated medical keyboards help reduce cross-contamination. They also are waterproof and can be cleaned with sprays or wipes without ever being disconnected or powered down. Seal Shield waterproof keyboards can be soaked in bleach, washed in a sink, or cleaned in an automatic dishwasher. Seal Shield also offers washable, antimicrobial-impregnated mice, TV remotes, and screen protectors. Additionally, Seal Shield SKY™ uses ultraviolet-C (UVC) light to thoroughly disinfect mobile devices. For more information, go to

Please join us again soon, when we explore how pathogens become resistant to antibiotics. It’s frightening how easily it happens. Antibiotic resistance is a worldwide threat, and we, individually and collectively, must be part of the solution.

Susan Cantrell, ELS
Infection Control Corner
Contributor Writer

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