By Jill Drachenberg, Managing Editor, AHC Media

New data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) show that hospitals have made great strides to improve patient safety – but there is still much more work ahead, researchers wrote

According to the AHRQ data, adverse events in hospitalized adults dropped to 121 per 1,000 hospitalizations in 2014 from 145 events per 1,000 hospitalization in 2010 – a decline of 4.5% per year for adverse events such as falls, pressure ulcers, central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs), and catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs). That translates to about 2.1 million fewer patients harmed.

There are a few possible reasons for the drop in adverse events, according to the researchers, including the following:

  • Research from AHRQ and others led to development of new safety and infection control procedures in hospitals.
  • Tools and technical systems were developed to help hospitals implement safety programs.
  • Improved access to safety data and measures allowed hospitals to more accurately track and measure rates of harm.
  • Hospital leadership is more committed and engaged in ensuring a culture of safety in their organizations.

The biggest question going forward, the authors noted, is how to maintain, or accelerate, the progress made in reducing adverse events. The rate of decline stayed the same between 2013 and 2014, suggesting that progress has plateaued. To continue making meaningful progress, hospitals need data tracking methods that are more reliable and less burdensome, more investment in patient safety programs and research, and better tools for implementing those safety measures, the authors concluded.

For more stories on quality measures and data reporting, see the July issue of Hospital Peer Review.