U.S. Senators Harkin and Wyden Make Patient Safety a National Priority

Senators Request that GAO Identify Best Practices to Reduce Preventable Patient Deaths

Irvine, CA

The Patient Safety Movement Foundation is applauding U.S. Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) for requesting the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) identify successful practices that health systems have implemented to reduce preventable patient deaths, so those practices can be instituted across the nation.

The letter follows up on last year’s testimony Patient Safety Movement Foundation founder Joe Kiani delivered before the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, which Harkin chairs, and laid out five steps to help eradicate preventable patient deaths, including creation of standardized processes for hospitals to define, measure, and report hospital-acquired infections (HAI) and hospital-acquired conditions (HAC), as well as expanding financial incentives and penalties.

In their letter to the GAO, Harkin and Wyden noted that many payers and providers are adopting a number of payment strategies. Medicare, for example, adjusts payments to hospitals based on their hospital-acquired infection and readmission rates and provides additional incentives for the provision of high quality care. Some providers are waiving charges associated with adverse events, disclosing errors, and apologizing to the patient and their family, the senators said.

The senators requested the GAO evaluate which patient safety practices have the greatest impact, how hospitals are incentivizing patient safety, and what additional research is needed to improve patient safety and tracking of adverse events.

The request comes a month before the annual Patient Safety, Science & Technology Summit, to be held in Irvine, Calif., Jan. 23-24. Former President Bill Clinton will deliver the keynote address. The summit will feature Actionable Patient Safety Solutions (APSS) commitments to address new challenges chosen by the participants at the 2014 midyear planning meeting, including early detection of sepsis and optimal resuscitation.

“We thank Senators Harkin and Wyden for making patient safety a national priority,” said Patient Safety Movement founder Joe Kiani. “At the upcoming Summit, we expect to announce that the hospitals that have made commitments to improve patient safety have saved thousands of lives so far. And we expect that with help from thoughtful leaders such as Senators Harkin and Wyden, we can achieve our unified goal of eliminating preventable patient deaths by 2020.”

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