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The Leapfrog Group, a national coalition of major employers and public purchasers, is asking U.S. hospitals to voluntarily report whether they have put in place or plan to implement three leaps in the prevention of errors that researchers say can save up to 58,000 lives a year. The on-line survey on the status of the standards is available to all hospitals but targets nonrural facilities. The three patient-safety standards endorsed by Leapfrog are:
• Computer physician order entry: Eliminates medication errors by having doctors in hospitals order tests and prescription drugs by computer instead of hand-written orders.
• Evidence-based hospital referral: Encourages patients to go to hospitals with better outcomes and, when outcome results are not available, uses volume of selected procedures where supported by science.
• Intensive care unit (ICU) physician staffing: Reduces ICU deaths over 15% by having ICUs staffed by physicians certified in critical-care medicine.
Research conducted by John D. Birkmeyer, MD, at Dartmouth Medical School, indicates that these three improvements could save up to 58,300 lives per year, and prevent 522,000 medication errors, if implemented by all nonrural hospitals in the United States. In California alone, that would translates to more than 7,000 lives saved and 63,000 medication errors prevented every year — one life and seven errors every hour.
In the survey, hospitals are asked whether they have implemented the standards or have made any plans to do so. Hospitals will be credited for interim steps toward implementation. Results will be published on the Leapfrog web sites and promoted by many individual Leapfrog purchasers. The Leapfrog Group is a growing consortium of 82 Fortune 500 companies and other large private and public health care purchasers providing benefits to 25 million Americans with more than $45 billion in health care expenditures. To participate in the survey or learn more about the Leapfrog Group, go to www.leapfroggroup.org.