HHS Announces Partnership for Patients

February 23, 2017

Earlier this week the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it was launching a $1 billion patient-safety program designed to decrease preventable harm to patients and make transitions of patient care easier to manage. The program, which is described as a “collaborative patient-safety initiative,” is called the Partnership for Patients.

Already, the HHS says, more than five hundred hospitals, as well as myriad clinicians and patient-safety representatives have pledged to participate in the program. Government predictions say that there is a potential to save 60,000 lives over the next three years. Predictions also include monetary return: a savings of as much as $50 billion in Medicare costs over the next ten years.

On May 4th, 2011, an initial disbursement of $500 million was made available to the program, under the auspices of the Community-based Care Transitions Program, a part of the 2010 healthcare reform law that is meant to lower the number of patients who are re-admitted to hospitals, and to improve care transitions (i.e. from emergency medicine to general medicine, or from a general practitioner to a specialist). The other half of the $1 billion budget will be disseminated via the CMS Innovation Center to be used in local programs designed to reduce hospital-acquired conditions.

In a press release, CMS Administrator Dr. Donald Berwick wrote about the new program, saying, “With new tools provided by the Affordable Care Act, we can aggressively implement programs that will help hospitals reduce preventable errors. We will provide hospitals with incentives to improve the quality of health care, and provide real assistance to medical professionals and hospitals to support their efforts to reduce harm.”

Why is this patient-safety program any different from previous attempts to improve care transition and reduce the number of conditions that patients actually acquire while under medical care? Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association spoke at an HHS-hosted press conference saying that this time HHS is “�going after everyone�” rather than focusing only on teaching hospitals or specific HMOs or PPOs.

Expanding on her comment, Keehan continued, “The second thing that stands out is there are going to be consistent measurements and transparency about those measurements and they’re going to share best practices�share tools�because people have done some really wonderful work around the country on various things.” Keehan also said that there hasn’t been enough time spent outlining the tools that have already been used to make changes to patient-safety.

Speaking at the same press conference, Dr. Richard Gilfillan, director of the CMS Innovation Center, said that announcements about the specific allocation of the $500 million it received will be made during the next few months.

Gilfillan explained, “We’re going to find our way to engagement with every hospital in America.” He also said that many different sorts of networks and practices will be supported, in an effort to share the information and techniques across many hospitals.

HHS has stated that the two main goals of the Partnership for Patients are a 40% reduction in preventable hospital-acquired conditions, and 20% reduction in preventable complications occurring during care, all by the end of 2013, as compared with numbers from 2010.