By Kathleen Sebelius and Sue Currin
San Francisco Chronicle
June 10, 2011
Over the years, leaders in industry have learned that doing something right often costs less than doing it wrong. This week we'll come together in San Francisco to talk about how applying that principle in health care can protect lives and save billions of dollars.
There is no doubt that America has the world's most skilled doctors and nurses and its finest hospitals. Every day, many Americans receive care that is as good as or better than any in the world. But far too often, we fall short of that high standard when good people get trapped in flawed systems.
A recent study found that as many as 1 in 3 hospital patients is harmed by the care they receive. Imagine a loved one who is admitted to the hospital for a routine surgery. The surgery goes well, but as he or she recovers, the stitches become infected or he or she has an allergic reaction to a medication that wasn't prescribed. A preventable mistake like this can result in longer hospital stays, long-term injuries or disability, or even death.
These mistakes don't just cause pain and anguish. They also add to skyrocketing health insurance bills for families, businesses and government at every level.
The good news is that hospitals across the country are showing that delivering better care is possible. For example, San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center has launched an unprecedented effort to reduce readmission and emergency room visits for seniors with an emphasis on those who do not speak English. So as your parent or grandparent is getting ready to leave the hospital, they meet with staff trained in their language and culture. They discuss their medications and how to use them at home. In the following days and weeks, a nurse or physician assistant calls them to confirm appointments and answer any questions.
These pockets of excellence must spread around the country. That's why the Obama administration has joined with San Francisco General Hospital and more than 1,500 other hospitals nationwide, along with hundreds of employers, health insurers, provider organizations and patient advocates, to launch the Partnership for Patients, an unprecedented alliance that will promote innovations to improve hospital care and reduce wasteful spending.
Kathleen Sebelius is Secretary of Health and Human Services.