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Big strides in patient safety

July 25, 2014

America’s hospitals are working smarter every day. Faced with the daunting challenge of delivering better, safer care at the same time they tackle costs, hospitals are aggressively amassing knowledge and forging new connections. And they are putting it all to work for patients.

A powerful example of how hospitals are collaborating for better patient care is the Hospital Engagement Network, or HEN, part of the federal Partnership for Patients initiative.

There are 26 HENs operating nationwide. The Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET) – the AHA’s research affiliate – administers the largest HEN, with nearly 1,600 hospitals participating in 31 states. HRET last week reported that its HEN has improved care for more than 143,000 patients since January 2012, resulting in an estimated cost savings of more than $1 billion.

Among other improvements, participating hospitals prevented more than 110,000 readmissions; nearly 19,000 early elective deliveries (which can increase complications); and more than 8,500 infections (see story on page 7).

The project seeks to help hospitals adopt practices that have the potential to reduce inpatient harm by 40% and readmissions by 20%. Every hospital active in a HEN deserves praise for its work to improve patient safety.

The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that, together, HEN hospitals have contributed to preventing nearly 15,000 deaths, avoided 560,000 patient injuries and saved approximately $4 billion.

Some have raised questions about the progress we are making in improving quality and safety in America’s hospitals. These are the numbers, and they are impressive, but there’s still much to do.

Most important is that the program has helped the hospital field develop the infrastructure, expertise and organizational culture that will support further safety improvements for years to come.

Given the results so far, it’s no wonder that HEN is the buzzword these days for quality improvement. The AHA congratulates all hospitals that participate in a HEN, and expresses our appreciation for a project that has given hospitals the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to spreading innovation and making health care safer for patients and families.