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Big Business Moves to Cut Medical Errors in Hospitals


According to Leapfrog estimates released Wednesday, if all the nation's nonrural hospitals took up the three initiatives, 58,000 deaths would be prevented each year, as would 522,000 medication errors. But right now, the group estimates that less than 2% of hospitals use computerized physician medication orders and that only 15% of patients go to ICUs that meet its physician staffing standard.

Hospitals indicate they aren't on the fast track to taking up the Leapfrog recommendations. Anne Berdahl, senior associate director of health policy at the American Hospital Association (AHA), tells WebMD that the standards hold "some potential promise" but are still relatively new. For example, computerized physician drug entry systems are still evolving, she said, with no "off-the-shelf" software yet available for hospitals. "It's complicated. We think that hospitals should make their own decisions."

The AHA on Wednesday put out a report on the computer systems that claimed, "Studies demonstrating improvements in patient outcome are limited, as are studies of the costs and success factors related to [using these systems]."

The Leapfrog Group also defended its use of positive public relations for hospitals that comply with its standards, rather than the "shtick" of lower payment rates or no contracts for hospitals that fail to meet its measure. Bruce Bradley, director of managed care plans at GM, said, "[Hospitals and their health professionals] are not people that need a shtick. These are good people."

The shtick may appear, however, in the future. Jeffrey Kang, MD, the top quality official of the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), which runs Medicare, tells WebMD that he supports the Leapfrog Group's initiative. "I think the evidence is there. It's a good start -- they're taking a market-based approach." But he says, "There is an outstanding question that HCFA will be attempting to wrestle with -- whether you actually make that a regulatory requirement. That's something that we're going to be internally debating."


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