$10 million in funding for efforts to reduce errors

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson recently announced that President Bush will propose $10 million in funding for an initiative to improve patient safety and reduce medical errors. The increased funding will bring the total HHS budget for improving patient safety to $84 million in fiscal year 2003.

The funds will support efforts to put known safety technologies into wider use, develop new approaches, and support a stronger system for rapid reporting of adverse medical events. Medical errors have been estimated by the Institute of Medicine to cause between 44,000 and 98,000 hospital deaths and cost between $17 billion and $29 billion in excess health care costs in the United States each year.

Under the initiative, HHS’ Agency for Health-care Research and Quality will receive $60 million, an increase of $5 million, for patient safety. A portion of the increased funds will provide "challenge grants" to states to encourage the adoption of proven but underused technologies by health care organizations to reduce medical errors. The new funding also will be used to train on-site patient safety experts to provide technical assistance and support to states to encourage a culture of patient safety. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also will receive $5 million in funding for patient safety, bringing their total funding for this issue to $22 million.

The new funds will allow the agency to improve its ability to assess and follow up on reports of adverse events that occur after using FDA-regulated products. Specific initiatives include partnering with the private sector to develop technologies, such as bar coding medications so electronic prescription programs can be widely introduced and diminish the number of medication errors.