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Press Release

Independence Blue Cross supports new national patient safety initiative

Goals include reducing health care-acquired infections and avoidable hospital readmissions

Philadelphia, PA - April 12, 2011 - Today in Washington D.C., Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, joined by national leaders from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, hospitals, health plans, and employers, announced Partnership for Patients, which among its goals, aims by 2013 to reduce the rate of health care-associated infections by 40 percent and decrease avoidable hospital readmissions within 30 days of discharge by 20 percent. Secretary Sebelius asked physicians, hospitals, employers, health plans and other important stakeholders in health care to pledge their support to this $1 billion initiative.

Nearly 250,000 Americans lose their lives each year due to medical errors, and many more are harmed by infections and medication-induced complications. As demonstrated by a recent study reported in Health Affairs, about one-in-three Americans encounters a mistake during a hospital stay. In her remarks, Secretary Sebelius said that the initiatives will help save 60,000 lives by stopping millions of preventable injuries and complications in patient care over the next three years.  The Partnership for Patients also has the potential to save up to $35 billion in health care costs, including up to $10 billion for Medicare.

Eliminating these avoidable deaths and injuries has been and continues to be a national priority for the Blues. Health plans across the country have partnered with doctors and hospitals in local communities to improve patient safety through programs that eliminate hospital-acquired infections, reduce readmissions and prevent surgical errors.

In the Philadelphia region, Independence Blue Cross (IBC) leads two significant local initiatives that promote collaboration among hospitals to improve patient safety and that encourage and reward primary care physicians for providing safer, more coordinated care.

"Today's announcement emphasizes the urgency of increasing patient safety and underscores the need for added resources, commitment, and collaboration among all of us in health care to implement changes that are proven to consistently improve health for sick people," said Dr. Richard L. Snyder, senior vice president and chief medical officer, Clinical Services for IBC.  "This new national initiative is shining a brighter light on safety now, but safety has always been a top priority for us: safer care is higher quality care, and ultimately more cost-effective care."

Initiatives IBC supports to improve patient safety include:

  • Partnering with hospitals to keep patients safer:  Since 2005, IBC has contributed $5 million to the Partnership for Patient Care, a multi-year patient safety and quality initiative facilitated by The Healthcare Improvement Foundation and involving more than 70 hospitals. The program has succeeded in reducing medication errors, infections, falls, bedsores, and blood clots.
  • Improving primary care: Since 2007, Independence Blue Cross has made a commitment to better primary care through its participation in Pennsylvania's Chronic Care Initiative, a groundbreaking patient-centered medical home care model. The initiative was so successful that Independence Blue Cross has expanded support for the model to all willing primary care physicians in its network.
  • Rewarding physicians and hospitals for quality care: IBC's pay-for-performance management program, Integrated Provider Performance Incentive Plan (IPPIP), offers incentives to encourage hospitals and doctors to provide the best quality care for the most value. The program rewards achievements such as successfully managing chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure and reducing dangerous and costly surgical complications and related hospital readmissions.

"Across the nation, Blue plans in collaboration with providers stimulate achievement of important patient safety goals, including reducing preventable readmissions to hospitals, which is one of the Blue System's top goals," said Dr. Allan Korn, senior vice president and chief medical officer, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. "For many years, Independence Blue Cross has been a community leader, creating opportunities for hospitals to make care safer in the Philadelphia region."

Recently, BCBSA created the Blue Patient Safety Toolkit, which provides online and printed resources, including a series of checklists, to the 39 Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies to share with their local network physicians to engage hospital leadership, eliminate infections and improve safety outcomes.

What's at stake: the human and financial costs of medical errors and infections
A Pennsylvania state agency report released February 2011 found that 30 percent of people who get an infection during a hospital stay are readmitted within 30 days.  And the cost for that care is much higher.  For Medicare patients who got an infection, the average cost of the hospitalization was $20,471, compared to $6,615 for Medicare patients who didn't pick up an infection.

Nationally, a government report released November 2010 found that in October 2008, 13.5 percent of Medicare beneficiaries - 134,000 patients - experienced "adverse events" during hospital stays. Extra treatment required as a result of the injuries could cost Medicare several billion dollars a year, and in 1.5 percent of the patients - 15,000 in the month studied - medical mistakes contributed to their deaths.  According to the Institute of Medicine, medical errors take more American lives than car accidents, breast cancer or AIDS. 

About Independence Blue Cross
Independence Blue Cross is a leading health insurer in Southeastern Pennsylvania. IBC and its affiliates provide coverage to nearly 3.3 million people. For more than 70 years, Independence Blue Cross has offered high-quality health care coverage tailored to meet the changing needs of members, employers, and health care professionals. Independence Blue Cross is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans.

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