The US federal government has penalised 764 hospitals — including more than three dozen it simultaneously rates as among the best in the country — for having the highest numbers of patient infections and potentially avoidable complications.
The penalties — a 1% reduction in Medicare payments over 12 months — are based on the experiences of Medicare patients discharged from the hospital between July 2018 and the end of 2019, before the pandemic began in earnest. The punishments, which the Affordable Care Act requires be assessed on the worst-performing 25% of general hospitals each year, are intended to make hospitals focus on reducing bedsores, hip fractures, blood clots, and the cohort of infections that before Covid-19 were the biggest scourges in hospitals. Those include surgical infections, urinary tract infections from catheters, and antibiotic-resistant germs like MRSA.
This year’s list of penalised hospitals includes Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles; Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago; a Cleveland Clinic hospital in Avon, Ohio; a Mayo Clinic hospital in Red Wing, Minnesota; and a Mayo hospital in Phoenix. Paradoxically, all those hospitals have five stars, the best rating, on Medicare’s Care Compare website.
Eight years into the Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction Program, 2,046 hospitals have been penalised at least once, a KHN analysis shows. But researchers have found little evidence that the penalties are getting hospitals to improve their efforts to avert bedsores, falls, infections, and other accidents.
“Unfortunately, pretty much in every regard, the program has been a failure,” said Andrew Ryan, a professor of health care management at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, who has published extensively on the programme.
“It’s very hard to capture patient safety with the surveillance methods we currently have,” he said. One problem, he added, is “you’re kind of asking hospitals to call out events that are going to have them lose money, so the incentives are really messed up for hospitals to fully disclose” patient injuries. Academic medical centers say the reason nearly half of them are penalised each year is that they are more diligent in finding and reporting infections.
Read full story
Source: Kaiser Health News, 8 February 2022