If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any period of time, you know that we can be very critical of the quality of medical care that patients receive in many hospitals and nursing facilities across the country.  With good reason. Too many patients suffer needless injury or death due to caregiver negligence and preventable mistakes. But, we are more than willing to acknowledge when progress is made on this problem.  And now, finally, it appears that maybe the data on this issue is trending in a positive direction – at least where our nation’s hospitals are concerned.

It has been estimated that between 210,000 and 440,000 patients die in hospitals each year from medical errors or infections that could have been prevented. However, a recent report by the Department of Health and Human Services estimates that roughly 50,000 fewer patients died from 2011 to 2013, thanks to the implementation of improved safety practices.  These updated safety practices are a combination of several things, including recommendations from patient-advocacy groups, incentives for hospitals written into the Affordable Care Act, and a renewed effort by major hospital chains to self-monitor. The result is a whopping 17% reduction in “hospital-induced harm,” and a savings of roughly $12 billion off our nation’s annual cost of medical care.

This represents real progress and should be applauded.  Further, it must be said that everyone involved in this issue recognizes that far more improvement can yet be realized. For example, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 2 million people acquire infections each year while hospitalized, we clearly still have a long way to go.  Nevertheless, saving the lives of 50,000 patients in three years is something to be celebrated, and should demonstrate to us all the dramatic results that can follow from a focus on best hospital practices.  We at MWK believe that if both the public and private sectors continue to concentrate on this problem, we should see the incidence of hospital-induced harm decline every year. And that is the sort of news we never tire of reporting.