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The Washington, DC-based Leapfrog Group, a national coalition of major employers and public purchasers, is asking U.S. hospitals to voluntarily report whether they have implemented or plan to implement three "leaps" in the prevention of medical errors that researchers say can save up to 58,000 lives a year.
The on-line survey on the status of the standards is available to all hospitals but targets nonrural facilities. In California, the effort is spearheaded by the San Francisco-based Pacific Business Group on Health (PBGH), California’s largest health care purchaser coalition. PBGH members and other employers will use the survey results to recognize leading hospitals and to educate their employees about how to use this information when choosing hospitals. "We’ve contacted more than 350 nonrural hospitals in California, urging them to complete the survey," says Peter Lee, president of PBGH. "Consumers need this information so they can make informed decisions about where to receive treatment."
The three patient safety standards endorsed by Leapfrog are:
• Computerized physician order entry. Eliminates medication errors by having physicians in hospitals order tests and prescription drugs by computer instead of handwritten orders.
• Evidence-based hospital referral. Encourages patients to go to hospitals with better outcomes and, when outcome results are not available, uses volume of selected procedures where supported by science.
• Intensive care unit (ICU) physician staffing. Reduces ICU deaths by more than 15% by having ICUs staffed by physicians certified in critical care medicine.
Research conducted by John D. Birkmeyer, MD, of the Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, NH, indicates that these three improvements could save up to 58,300 lives per year, and prevent 522,000 medication errors, if implemented by all nonrural hospitals in the United States. The not-for-profit Sutter Health network already has endorsed the Leapfrog initiative and is encouraging its 25 hospitals to complete the survey. "It will take time to accomplish all of the Leapfrog standards for eliminating preventable mistakes," says Van Johnson, president and CEO of Sacramento, CA-based Sutter Health, "but the standards are scientifically valid and worth pursuing."
In the survey, hospitals are asked whether they have implemented the standards or have made any plans to do so. Hospitals will be credited for interim steps toward implementation. The survey results will be published on the Leapfrog and PBGH web sites, and promoted by many individual Leapfrog purchasers.
"Many hospitals are putting in place new systems to address patient safety gaps," Lee says. "With Leapfrog, we look forward to recognizing the efforts of these hospitals as they work to reduce preventable mistakes."
The Leapfrog Group is a growing consortium of 82 Fortune 500 companies and other large private and public health care purchasers, providing benefits to 25 million Americans with more than $45 billion in health care expenditures. To learn more about the Leapfrog Group or participate in the survey, which is sponsored nationally by The Business Roundtable, visit www.leapfroggroup.org.