Healthcare-Associated Infections Drop

Healthcare-acquired conditions declined by 17% over a 3-year period, according to a report released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The report estimates that 50,000 fewer patients died in hospitals and approximately $12 billion in healthcare costs were saved as a result of a reduction in hospital-acquired conditions from 2010 to 2013. This progress occurred during a period of concerted attention by hospitals throughout the country to reduce adverse events, due in part to provisions of the Affordable Care Act, such as Medicare payment incentives to improve the quality of care and the HHS Partnership for Patients initiative. Preliminary estimates show that in total, hospital patients experienced 1.3 million fewer hospital-acquired conditions from 2010 to 2013.

The data show that the most significant gains occurred in 2012 and 2013. According to preliminary estimates, in 2013 alone, almost 35,000 fewer patients died in hospitals, and approximately 800,000 fewer incidents of harm occurred, saving approximately $8 billion. Hospital-acquired conditions include adverse drug events, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, central line-associated bloodstream infections, pressure ulcers, and surgical site infections, among others.

Obama Signs Newborn Screening Bill

On December 18, President Obama signed the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Reauthorization Act of 2013, following concerted advocacy efforts by AACC and other organizations. The Senate passed the bill December 8 after months of delay were resolved by the addition of an amendment related to the privacy of newborn screening samples.

The act renews federal programs for the next 5 years that support state efforts to ensure that every newborn is tested for at least 31 conditions present at birth. The bill also reauthorizes federal programs that provide assistance to states to improve and expand their newborn screening programs, support parent and provider education, and ensure laboratory quality and surveillance for newborn screening programs through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The act also will continue funding for research on treatments for conditions that early screening can detect.

In October, AACC held a briefing on Capitol Hill on why medical testing and especially the newborn screening legislation were crucial to improving children’s health. As a follow up to this briefing, members of AACC’s board of directors visited Senate offices in November to talk further about the critical role clinical tests play in ensuring that children receive the medical treatment they need. The association released a position statement in July that stresses the importance of identifying additional conditions for newborn screening beyond the core 29 conditions tested for in most states.

CDC Designates 35 U.S. Hospitals as Ebola Treatment Centers

State health officials have identified and designated 35 hospitals as Ebola treatment centers based on a collaborative decision with local health authorities and the hospital administration. The hospitals have the current capabilities, training, and resources to provide the complex treatment necessary to care for a person with Ebola while minimizing risk to healthcare workers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

More than 80% of returning travelers from Ebola-stricken countries live within 200 miles of an Ebola treatment center. During their active monitoring, state or local public health authorities communicate every day with potentially exposed individuals to check for symptoms and fever for the 21-day incubation period of the Ebola virus.

CDC also has been working with state and local public health officials to identify Ebola assessment hospitals that can serve as the point of referral for individuals being actively monitored and who develop symptoms compatible with Ebola. An assessment hospital would only care for a patient who might have Ebola during the time before a confirmed diagnosis is made, after which it would then transfer the patient to an Ebola treatment center. According to CDC, 15 states that have the majority of travelers now have plans in place to evaluate persons under investigation and provide care for up to 96 hours while testing can be arranged.