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Partnership for Patients Announcement

Washington, DC
April 12, 2011

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Thank you, Sorrel, for sharing your story. And thank you for your tireless work to save other families from the heartbreak you experienced.

There is no doubt that America has the world’s most skilled doctors and nurses and its finest hospitals. Every day, countless Americans receive care that is as good or better than any in the world. People travel to our shores from across the globe to get treatment they can’t get anywhere else. But we are here today because far too often, for far too many patients, we fall short of that high standard.

In some cases, Americans go without care altogether because they’ve been shut out or priced out of a broken health insurance market. That’s why we continue to work to implement the insurance reforms in the Affordable Care Act, which will eventually give every American access to affordable health coverage.

But in other cases, people do make it to the hospital, but something goes wrong. Just last week, a report released in Health Affairs found that errors or adverse events occur in nearly one out of every three hospital admissions.

Sometimes, it’s merely an improper dose of medication that leaves someone feeling dizzy or nauseous. But too often, in cases like Josie’s, the consequences are far more tragic.

What makes these results even more unacceptable is that we know we can do better. I’ve seen that firsthand in the last two years as I traveled across the country.

In February, I visited Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle. They’ve studied the world’s best manufacturers to learn how to deliver more consistent care. In the process, they’ve reduced patient falls by 25 percent and bed sores by 75 percent.

In March, I visited with hospital, community, and business leaders in Ohio who have formed a partnership to improve care. Today, they’ve prevented 3,600 infections and medicine complications for Ohio children, while already saving $13 million in reduced health care costs.

And it’s not just a few exceptional health systems that are doing this. In Michigan, a coalition of hospitals was able to reduce the occurrence of a common infection by two thirds, cut health care costs by $200 million, and save 1,500 lives in 18 months just by using a checklist developed by a doctor at Johns Hopkins that reminded providers to take simple steps like washing their hands.

These hospitals are showing that it is possible to deliver better care. The challenge for us is to figure out how to help these models spread.

And what’s clear is that no one here in this room can do this alone.

America’s doctors and nurses are already doing their best to take care of their patients. Simply telling them to solve this problem on their own would be both unfair and unproductive.

But we also know that a top-down solution where government or employers go into hospitals and tell doctors and nurses how to do their jobs won’t work either.

And we’ve already seen how progress can slow when hospitals do one thing, health plans do another, and Medicare goes in a third direction.

That’s what brings us here this morning. Today, we are announcing a new Partnership for Patients that will bring together hospitals, physicians, nurses, employers, unions, patient advocates, health plans, and others to improve the safety of health care in America.

Our ultimate goal is the same one shared with me by a doctor I recently spoke to at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. He told me that they did not strive to reduce harmful errors for the children they treat by 20 percent, or 40 percent. Their goal was to eliminate these errors altogether. That’s our aim too.

To get started, we are setting two ambitious goals for the next three years.

First, we will reduce preventable injuries that happen in hospitals by 40 percent, preventing 1.8 million injuries and saving 60,000 lives.

Second, we will cut preventable hospital readmissions by 20 percent, saving more than 1.6 million patients from complications that force them to return to the hospital.

To help achieve these goals, we’ve reached out to hospitals, physician and nursing organizations, patient advocates, health plans, and major employers.

And today, I’m proud to be joined on stage by representatives of a few of the numerous partners, including more than 500 hospitals, which have already pledged their support. In the months to come, we expect that number will continue to grow.

If we want to succeed, we will need everyone’s contributions. But Medicare has a special role to play. As the source of health insurance for more than 45 million Americans, Medicare has a deep responsibility to help improve the quality of care. And as the country’s largest payer for care, Medicare has a powerful ability to be a catalyst for change.

That’s why we are announcing today that we will commit up to $1 billion in new funding from the Affordable Care Act towards our two initial goals. In addition, we are providing hospitals and physicians with an unprecedented range of resources about what other health care providers are doing to improve patient safety.

This is not just about improving health. By reducing medical errors, we will also bring down rising health care costs, which have put a growing burden on families, businesses, and government.

Every time a patient gets an infection in the hospital or is readmitted because they didn’t get the right follow-up care, our national health care bill goes up. That’s why it’s estimated that reaching the targets we’ve set today would save up to $35 billion across our health care system over three years, including up to $10 billion for Medicare. Over ten years, the reduction in Medicare costs could be around $50 billion.

And critically, this is just one part of a broader agenda to support the efforts of doctors and nurses to improve care through the health care law.

Last week for example, we proposed rules that will help health care providers form Accountable Care Organizations, which make it easier for doctors and nurses to work together to keep their patients healthy.

We’re also working through the new Innovation Center in Medicare and Medicaid to test additional models for improving outcomes or reducing costs. And in the coming years, we’ll begin to tie hospital payments to quality results to reward those that deliver the best care. What these reforms mean for health care providers across the country have never had more support as they work to improve safety for their patients.

By assembling this partnership and committing to ambitious goals, we are sending a clear message that we can no longer accept a health care system in which only some Americans get the best possible care.

We know that the type of change we are talking about today will not come easily. But we also know it can be done. And I look forward to working with our partners in this room and across the country to work towards the day when no parent has to go through what Sorrel did ever again.

As we move forward, we couldn’t have a better person guiding this effort than Dr. Don Berwick.

Don is not just a leading expert on bringing together coalitions to improve care. He is the leading expert. And he has a record not just of getting people together, but of getting results.

So now, to talk more about this partnership, I’d like to turn it over to Don…