Utah hospitals join partnership to provide safer facilities for patients

Published: Monday, Jan. 30 2012 6:04 p.m. MST

MURRAY — Twelve years ago, 28 percent of the more than 30,000 babies born annually at Intermountain Healthcare hospitals were induced.

That number was down to less than 2 percent on Monday.

"It's all about letting women know that there is a difference when you deliver at less than 39 weeks," said Teri Keihn, a nurse with Intermountain's Women and Newborn Clinical Program. Educating women, their physicians and the community is one of the steps the program has taken to reduce the potentially risky deliveries and provide better patient outcomes.

Keihn said carrying a baby full-term is healthy for a number of reasons, both to the baby and the mother.

Intermountain Healthcare on Monday joined 37 other Utah health care facilities — including hospitals, clinics and nursing centers — in signing the "Partnership for Patients: Better Care, Lower Costs," a nationwide initiative that aims to improve patient safety.

"Hospitals are very complex organizations and despite the best intentions, careful precautions and innovative approaches, medical errors can still occur," said Marguerite Salazar, regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "More people die from preventable medical errors than from AIDS, breast cancer and accidents combined."

The kind of errors she's talking about include adverse drug effects from contraindicated medications, urinary tract infections that result from a poorly placed catheter, and central-line associated bloodstream infections brought on by unsanitary conditions, which is one of the most deadly and costly hospital-associated infections, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A 1999 Institute of Medicine study revealed that as many as 98,000 Americans die every year from preventable medical errors. Despite progress in some areas, the CDC reports that meaningful improvement was not made in the decade that followed.

Numerous patients continue to get injured or sick from preventable, adverse events after being admitted to a hospital.

The initiative, which was launched last week by the Obama administration, puts forth some lofty goals. It anticipates a 40 percent reduction in preventable injuries at hospitals and clinics throughout the country, and a 20 percent reduction in patients who experience preventable complications during a transmission from one care setting to another by the end of 2013.

Salazar said more than 60,000 lives will be saved and more than 1.6 million patients will recover from illness without re-hospitalization if the goals of the initiative are realized. It is also anticipated that billions of federal dollars will be saved in health care costs, specifically to Medicaid and Medicare, according to the Obama administration.

Intermountain Medical Center Dr. Todd Allen said he's already seen innovative approaches save lives in the hospital's emergency department. He has helped to reorganize the clinical structure of how patients with potentially fatal sepsis infections are diagnosed and treated.

"In 2011, we have 80 percent compliance," he said, adding that the mortality rate from sepsis at IMC has been cut in half in just six years.

"We're helping more patients get through their stay without complications," Allen said.

Intermountain CEO David Grauer said the Intermountain Healthcare system, which is one of the largest health care providers in the state, "is committed to high quality, low cost care."

"Together, I believe we can make great progress," he said.

Other hospitals already pledged to work to provide better outcomes for patients include the MountainStar Healthcare network and IASIS hospitals in the state, as well as dozens of regional and rural facilities.

For more information about the Partnership for Patients initiative, visit www.HealthCare.gov.

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com, Twitter: wendyleonards

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