Protecting patients from harm is medicine’s bedrock goal, but the resources required to do so have never come cheaply. With the recession taking its toll on the health sector, doctors and other medical professionals who have tackled problems ranging from hospital-acquired infections to patient falls find their efforts increasingly scrutinized on dollars-and-cents grounds.
Ninety percent of hospital CEOs have cut administrative expenses, staff and services amid the recession, according to a survey of more than 1,000 chief executives released in April by the American Hospital Assn. More than three-quarters said they cut capital spending and nearly half scaled back ongoing projects.
The moves come at a time when hospitals already are facing a changing payment landscape. For example, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and many private payers have cut or stopped paying for “never events,” such as wrong-site surgeries.
President Obama has proposed bundling payments for hospitalization and care 30 days postdischarge, penalizing hospitals with high one-month readmission rates. The administration says the move would save $8.4 billion and give hospitals more financial incentive to reduce the 20% 30-day readmission rate among Medicare patients.
Given all that, it was no surprise to hear phrases not frequently uttered in patient-safety circles — cost-benefit ratio, return on investment, cost effectiveness — flutter about the 2009 Patient Safety Congress convened in May. The annual event, organized by the Boston-based National Patient Safety Foundation, brought more than 1,200 doctors, nurses, pharmacists, patient-safety officers, risk managers and hospital executives to National Harbor, Md., across the Potomac River from the nation’s capital.
The whole shebang.