Business Suggests Ways to Reduce Medical Errors
The Leapfrog Group, a coalition of large businesses, is expected to unveil plans today to use its "mammoth healthcare buying power" to lobby the health care industry to adopt new safety and reporting standards to reduce medical errors, the Wall Street Journal reports. Sponsored by the Business Roundtable, an association of corporate CEOs, the new group formed in order to develop "new cost effective health benefit policies" after the Institute of Medicine released a report on medical mistakes last year (Martinez, Wall Street Journal, 11/15). The study concluded that each year mistakes at hospitals cause as many as 98,000 deaths and add more than $20 billion in costs. In addition, the report said the health care system had "failed to take sufficient measures to ensure patient safety" and should aim to reduce errors by 50% in the next five years (California Healthline, 11/30/99). Working from IOM's proposals, Leapfrog will encourage employers and the health care industry to work together to reduce errors. On the hospital side, Leapfrog says hospitals should install computerized prescription systems which could eliminate "handwriting errors" and "flag drug interactions." While such systems would reduce medication errors by 50%, only 2% of hospitals use them. In addition, the group says ICU wards should staff intensive care specialists. By doing so, more than 53,000 lives could be saved. On the business side, Leapfrog said member firms plan to "educate workers ... that not all hospitals provide the same level of care." The group will encourage employees to undergo "complicated medical procedures" at facilities with the "best survival odds." Lewis Campbell, chair of the Business Roundtable's Health and Retirement Task Force, said, "The number of tragic deaths brought about by preventable medical errors is too striking for those of us in the business community to ignore." He added, "We feel confident in our ability to make a difference by harnessing and leveraging our health care purchasing power. It's a straightforward approach to tackling a complex problem." The group boasts 60 corporate members, including General Electric Co., General Motors Co., Delta Air Lines Inc., AT&T Corp., IBM Corp., Boeing Co. and Xerox Corp.
Responding to Leapfrog's proposals, the American Hospital Association said its members "have already been working" to improve safety, since "even before the government's report." Carmela Coyle, AHA's senior vice president, pointed out that new technology, too, can "produce additional errors." In addition, she noted the "hospitals' plights" have been "complicated" by cuts in government reimbursements. Coyle said that Leapfrog's proposals "are ideas that have shown some potential promise in improving safety, but they are also very new concepts that are still in their infancy." She added that the proposals are only a few of the "wide range of things that can be done." Leapfrog will announce its proposals today at a press briefing in Washington D.C. (Martinez, Wall Street Journal, 11/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.