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Nationwide initiative cuts central-line infections by 40%

Additional evidence emerged in September to document the nation’s patient safety breakthrough in reducing the toll of central line-associated bloodstream infections in hospital intensive care units. More than 1,100 hospitals in 44 states participated in a federally funded initiative using an evidence-based tool kit that incorporates standardized checklists. They slashed central-line infections by 40% over four years. The overall infection rate among hospitals in the project fell from 1.903 infections for every 1,000 days patients have a central line inserted to a rate of 1.137 per 1,000 days. “That 40% is not just a number — it means more than 500 lives saved and more than 2,000 fewer patients suffered an infection. And we avoided $34 million in costs,” said Carolyn M. Clancy, MD, director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The agency, part of the Dept. of Health and Human Services, funded the work done by the American Hospital Assn. to spread the preve ...

Stakeholders seek regulatory direction on insurance exchanges

A panel representing state, insurance and employer interests told the House Ways and Means health subcommittee on Sept. 12 that they need more concrete direction from the federal government on how to set up the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges as implementation dates fast approach on these new coverage marketplaces. The Dept. of Health and Human Services has asked states to select their “benchmark” plans on essential health benefits by the end of September. “But no rule, proposed or final, has been released outlining the details of this process,” said Michael Consedine, Pennsylvania’s insurance commissioner, testifying before the panel. The essential health benefits are the minimum coverage standards that must be followed by the exchanges and some health plans outside of the exchanges starting in 2014. Many unknowns surround the selection of these benefits, including whether HHS could modify or override a state’s choice and replace it with another op ...

Suicide prevention strategy calls for screening those most at risk

An updated national suicide prevention strategy calls on physicians to screen patients at increased risk of taking their own lives and to educate family members about ways to support such individuals. At-risk patients include those with an illness that impairs their physical functions or causes chronic pain, members of the Armed Forces and veterans. Doctors also are encouraged to implement protocols that ensure immediate follow-up with patients after they are discharged from an emergency department or inpatient care facility due to suicidal thoughts or behavior. The recommendations are part of the 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention issued Sept. 10 by the Dept. of Health and Human Services Office of the Surgeon General and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. The alliance is a public-private partnership focused on advancing the national initiative. “Keeping [Americans] safe from lost hope is as critical a public health issue as keeping them safe ...