According to a new hospital report, deadly medical errors have declined in hospitals, a benefit that may have saved 87,000 lives since 2010. Identifying the reasons for the improvement presents a challenge, but many analysts believe initiatives within the Affordable Care Act have played an important role. If these experts are correct, it means Obamacare has prevented deaths due to human error.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which issued the report, has tracked medical errors since 2010. It found that 121 of 1,000 patients who experienced hospital stays in 2014 suffered hospital-acquired conditions (HAC) that resulted from error. While this rate equals that of the previous year, it shows a 17 percent improvement over the HAC rate of 145 in 2010. Based on research, the report translates the decline in HAC to the saving of 87,000 lives.
Doctors are aware that many people die every year due to preventable mistakes. However, getting hospitals to adopt practices that reduce medical errors has been difficult partly because existing financial incentives failed to reward physicians and hospital staff for improving quality. Since patients who get sick due to an error require longer hospitalizations that result in more revenue, the financial incentives perversely can reward poor care.
The Affordable Care Act sought to reverse this system that puts patients at risk. Due to penalties the law created, Medicare pays less to hospitals with higher rates of readmissions, HAC and injuries. In addition, the government awards extra funds to medical institutions that agree to implement quality-enhancing measures. Experts don’t know the full impact of these reforms yet, but the steep decline suggests they have led to better patient care.
To learn how doctors feel about medical errors, see Doctors Stress Over Medical Errors (And So Does Everyone Else).
If someone you love suffered an injury or illness due to someone else’s inaction or wrongdoing, our Washington D.C. medical malpractice attorneys can help you seek compensation effectively.