Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Strongly Supports Federal Efforts to Reduce Harmful Medical Errors

New initiative aligns with Blue Cross' efforts to create a safer care delivery system

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is pleased to support the Partnership for Patients, a new patient safety initiative announced by the federal government earlier this week. This effort brings together healthcare providers, consumer groups, employers and insurers to reduce avoidable harmful medical errors in treatment—a longtime commitment of Blues Plans.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that the Partnership for Patients aims to cut the rate of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) by 40 percent by 2013. The partnership also hopes to decrease avoidable hospital readmissions within 30 days of discharge by 20 percent.

Medical errors cost the lives of nearly 250,000 Americans each year. Many more patients develop infections or suffer medication-induced complications during treatment. A recent study in Health Affairs suggests that about one in three Americans encounters a mistake during a hospital stay.

In Louisiana last year, just fewer than 29,000 patients contracted HAIs while being treated in hospitals and clinics around the state. Of those patients, almost 2,500 lost their lives to this avoidable phenomenon.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana has long been a leader in efforts to improve healthcare quality and safety. Last October, the company awarded $1.5 million in grants to hospitals around the state to combat HAIs. The grants are being used to track the breakdowns in quality of care that lead to infection.

Blue Cross recently partnered with CareFusion MedMined Services to use state-of-the-art data mining techniques designed especially to reduce infection rates in hospitals. The software and services provided by MedMined Services can review billions of patterns of hospital/patient interactions. “Findings from hospitals participating in the BCBSLA- led MedMined grant program will help us combat avoidable hospital-acquired infections that are costly in terms of human suffering, additional medical costs from longer hospital stays and readmissions and in rare occasion, unnecessary mortality. Using data from these studies will allow our hospital partners to identify causes of infection, develop better ways to prevent infections and avoid future variation from those best practices,” said Ken Phenow, MD, MPH, chief medical officer at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana.

“Studies show that most HAIs are preventable because they are caused by correctable process breakdowns, such as poor sterilization technique, improperly cleaned equipment or not receiving appropriate antibiotics,” Phenow said. “BCBSLA is dedicated to providing our patients with the best care possible, and we are willing to invest in technology that can help determine where hospitals have correctable gaps in patient care and then hold hospitals accountable to new care standards—thereby assuring that our patients receive better care outcomes through high-quality care.”

On average, HAIs increase hospital stays by 251,800 days a year and cost an additional $404 million. Hospitals, under increasing financial pressure, have not had the resources to monitor HAIs. The MedMined grant program makes this vital step in quality care possible in Louisiana.

“Eliminating these avoidable deaths and injuries has been and continues to be a national priority for the Blues,” said Scott P. Serota, President and CEO of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. “We are partnering with doctors and hospitals in local communities across the country to improve patient safety through programs that eliminate hospital acquired infections, reduce readmissions and prevent surgical errors.”

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
Founded in New Orleans in 1934, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana (BCBSLA) is the oldest and largest Louisiana-based health insurance company. BCBSLA is a not-for-profit, fully taxed mutual insurer, owned by policyholders and governed by a local Board of Directors. It is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

The company provides group and individual health insurance plans, life and disability insurance, group voluntary products and administrative services to more than 1.3 million members. With headquarters in Baton Rouge and eight district offices, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana employs more than 1,800 Louisianians who are committed to improving the lives of its customers by providing them with health guidance and affordable access to quality care.

Learn more on the company’s website at www.bcbsla.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bluecrossla. Follow Blue Cross on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BCBSLA and CEO Mike Reitz at www.twitter.com/MikeReitzCEO