President Launches Initiative to Reduce Preventable Hospital Errors

National healthcare officials unrolled an Obama administration initiative to save as many as 60,000 lives by reducing medical errors and patient complications after patients are discharged from the hospital. Eleven nationwide events were held to highlight the national Partnership for Patients, which enlists the support of hospitals, employers, health plans, doctors, nurses and patient advocates to "make the best care normal care for all patients," said Rima Cohen, counselor to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

The goal is to eliminate preventable errors in health care, which could save as much as $35 billion, including $10 billion for Medicare, she said — as well as save lives and reduce problems for patients. Currently, one in three hospitalized patients experiences a medical error during their stay, a study published this month in the journal Health Affairs reported.

Much more attention needs to be focused on the "handoffs," when patients are discharged to nursing homes or home care, to make sure they get the right medication and a follow-up phone call within 24 hours, said Dr. Jaime Torres, a podiatrist and Health and Human Services director for the region that includes New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and eight tribal nations. Patients often relapse after discharge, resulting in a hospital readmission within days. Those admissions are costly  and can be avoided if the system of follow-up communication is improved, Torres said. For more, read the story.

Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.

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