Preventing medical errors: an official incentive
Medicare now says that it won't reimburse hospitals for hospital-associated infections, or the sequelae of serious adverse events, according to an article in today's New York Times. About 100,000 deaths per year are estimated to occur from hospital-acquired infections alone, and treating such infections is estimated to cost billions of dollars. The idea behind the new rules is that such events are preventable, and that non-reimbursement will further compel hospitals to take steps to ensure that they don't occur.
Hospital organization representatives interviewed in the article question the extent to which adverse events and infections are, in fact, preventable. (Paul Levy, CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital and blogger, believes that infections are preventable, and has written at length - e.g., here - about his hospital's goal of zero infections.) Hospitals also worry that they'll be have to spend more of their own money on tests of infection upon admission so that they can demonstrate that certain infections are community-acquired. It'd be an interesting economic analysis (that I'm not qualified to make) to see whether diligently working toward zero infections, in a climate of nonreimbursement for infections, pays off as well as investing dollars to try and prove that infections are not hospital-acquired, though the latter could provide interesting data if studied rigorously.
More details on this initiative soon.