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A coalition of 60 of the country’s largest employers who provide health benefits to more than 20 million Americans has agreed to look favorably on health care institutions that have more stringent patient safety measures.
The Business Roundtable, a consortium of Fortune 500 companies and other large private and public health care purchasers, have formed the "Leapfrog Group" to improve American health care and save lives through elimination of avoidable errors. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the Health Care Financing Administration, and the Minnesota Departments of Human Services and Employee Relations also participate as liaisons.
These employers, in conjunction with their employees, retirees, and families hope to improve medical care by rewarding hospitals that implement significant safety improvements. Suzanne Delbanco, PhD, the group’s executive director, says that Leapfrog plans to reduce preventable medical errors by changing the way members purchase health care. "By encouraging health care providers to adopt three proven safety measures," Delbanco says, "thousands of Americans can be protected from disability and death."
These measures are:
• Computerized physician order entry (CPOE), which requires that physicians enter medication orders via a computer linked to prescribing error prevention software. CPOE has been shown to reduce serious prescribing errors in hospitals by more than 50%.
• Evidence-based hospital referral, which requires doctors to refer patients who need certain complex medical procedures to hospitals that offer the best survival odds based on scientifically valid criteria. This includes the number of times a hospital performs these procedures each year. Research shows can reduce a patient’s death risk by as much as 30%.
• Intensive care unit staffing by physicians trained in critical care medicine. Staffing ICUs with physicians who have credentials in critical care medicine has been shown to reduce the risk of patients dying in the ICU by more than 10%.
The program was triggered by a 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine, which found that up to 98,000 Americans die every year from preventable medical errors made in hospitals. New research indicates a more stringent, market-based approach could save up to 58,300 lives and prevent up to 522,000 medication errors annually.
Leapfrog members must agree to:
• Educate and inform enrollees about patient safety and the importance of comparing health care provider performance, with initial emphasis on the Leapfrog safety measures;
• Recognize and reward health care providers for major advances in protecting patients from preventable medical errors;
• Hold health plans accountable for implementing Leapfrog purchasing principles;
• Build the support of benefits consultants and brokers to utilize and advocate for the Leapfrog purchasing principles with all of their clients.
The Business Roundtable is an association of chief executive officers of corporations with a combined workforce of more than 10 million employees in the United States. For more information, contact John Schachter, at the Business Roundtable (202) 872-1260.