Patient Safety is Improving: Some Positive Indications of Progress

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

Recent AHRQ Data Shows Stabilizing Rates of HACs

The Healthcare Research and Quality Act of 1999 requires that an annual report addressing the quality of healthcare and disparities in healthcare is submitted to Congress. These regular reports, called the National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Reports (QDR), are produced by an interagency group led by AHRQ and include recent findings on patient safety. The most recent National Healthcare QDR cites that measures of patient safety improved, with a 17 percent reduction in HACs. AHRQ states that “the general trend in patient safety is one of improvement” and recognizes the efforts by interagency alliances, federal agencies, and practitioners to prioritize the reduction of HACs (AHRQ, 2014…).

In December 2015, AHRQ released its most recent report including annual rates of HACs and estimates of cost savings and deaths averted from 2010-2013. Included are preliminary estimates for 2014, which show a sustained 17 percent decrease in HACs since 2010. The report estimates that in the period from 2010-2014 a total of 2.1 million fewer HACs were experienced, and in the period between 2011 and 2014, approximately 87,000 fewer deaths occurred and almost $20 billion in healthcare costs were saved. The following tables from the report show the total annual and cumulative HAC reductions and cost savings from 2011-2014 (AHRQ, 2015, Saving…):

AHRQ concludes that much of this progress resulted from their investments in research, tools, trainings, data, and measures to track changes. They also emphasize the value of the widespread use of electronic health records and other likely causes of the improvements, such as “financial incentives created by CMS and other payers’ payment policies, public reporting of hospital-level results, technical assistance offered by the QIO program to hospitals, and technical assistance and catalytic efforts of the HHS PfP initiative led by CMS” (AHRQ, 2015, Saving…). These initiatives to encourage hospitals to make advances in reducing HACs are resulting in improved patient safety across the country. The combined efforts of dedicated practitioners with hospitals and federal agencies can be evidenced in the declining numbers of HACs and increasing hospital performance measures. Agencies, hospitals, and patients alike have reason to hope that these developments are indicative of an overall trend towards improvement in patient safety.

References and Resources:

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). (2015). 2014 National healthcare quality and disparities report. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Retrieved from

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). (2015). Saving lives and saving money: Hospital-acquired conditions update. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Retrieved from

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). (2015). Hospital-acquired conditions (present on admission indicator): Hospital-acquired conditions. Retrieved from Hospital-Acquired_Conditions.html

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). (2016). Hospital-acquired condition reduction program (HACRP). Retrieved from http://www.cms. gov/ Medicare/Medicare-Fee-for-Service-Payment/AcuteInpatientPPS/HAC-Reduction-Program.html

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