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Aetna has become the first health care and group benefits company to join The Leapfrog Group, a consortium of Fortune 500 companies and other health care purchasers who have agreed to base their purchase of health care on principles encouraging more stringent patient safety measures. The Leapfrog Group is a market-based effort to improve patient safety across the nation by organizing the purchasers of group health care insurance.
"As a major employer, Aetna’s interest in our employees doesn’t begin and end with the workday," says Elease Wright, senior vice president of human resources. "We remain keenly aware of how an employee’s overall health and well-being can affect his or her ability to contribute to our business. Clearly, The Leapfrog Group’s mission to improve the safety of an employee’s health care experience is far reaching as it enables employees to remain healthy and productive."
William C. Popik, MD, senior vice president and chief medical officer, says Aetna is joining Leapfrog as an employer, even though it is directly involved in securing health care for others. "Although we’re joining Leapfrog as an employer, Aetna has long been serious about encouraging patient safety on behalf of our more than 19 million health members," Popik says. "Our efforts already include myriad projects such as grants for academic research on medical errors and strategies to improve patient safety, and pharmacy programs that alert participating pharmacists to potentially harmful drug interactions. Now, we’re complementing these existing initiatives by joining Leapfrog’s campaign to create a safer health care experience for our employees."
On Aug. 10, 2000, Aetna announced $840,000 in research grants to five leading academic institutions to study issues such as improving surgical patient safety, infection control for long-term care facilities, and improving medication safety. Aetna also has implemented drug-to-drug and drug-to-disease pharmacy programs that integrate medical and pharmacy data in order to alert participating pharmacists to potentially harmful drug interactions at the point a drug is dispensed.
"In our role as a health care insurer, we will also promote awareness of the Leapfrog program among our participating hospitals and continue to develop additional patient safety enhancements for our existing programs," Popik says.
A 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine found that up to 98,000 Americans die every year from preventable medical errors made in hospitals. The Leapfrog Group is a Business Roundtable-sponsored commitment to mobilize employer purchasing power to initiate breakthrough improvements in the safety of health care for Americans. It is a voluntary program aimed at mobilizing large purchasers to alert America’s health industry that big "leaps" in patient safety and customer value will be recognized and rewarded. The Leapfrog Group’s approximately 80 members provide health benefits for more than 24 million Americans; Leapfrog members and their employees spend more than $45 billion on health care annually.
Aetna is the nation’s leading provider of health care and group benefits, serving more than 19 million health care members, 14 million dental members, and nearly 12 million group insurance customers as of Dec. 31, 2000.