As a result of the Institute of Medicine’s 1999 report To Err is Human a group of healthcare industry advocates formed the Leapfrog Group, with a mission of improving quality of care in hospitals and correcting the safety deficiencies documented in the report and other studies.
The Leapfrog Group’s operational strategy was designed to address those areas in which hospitals could improve their safety standards through the identification of evidence-based standards. Three areas in particular became their focus: “One such standard was using computerized drug order entry systems in hospitals to automate prescription drug ordering and distribution, including software that checks drug orders for common prescribing errors. A second standard was staffing hospital intensive care units with intensivists, who are physicians trained in critical care medicine. A third was making evidence-based hospital referrals, which direct patients requiring complex surgeries and treatments to experienced hospitals meeting certain structural and process requirements.”
The group concluded that as many as 65,400 deaths could be avoided and as many as 907,600 serious medication errors could be prevented annually, with an associated annual cost savings of $41.5 billion.
These improvements would be measured by voluntary hospital reporting which would be incentivized for those hospitals and institutions that met the established standards.
Unfortunately, little progress has been made in implementing these health safety standards. Health Affairs reports, “our study highlights the complexity of improving the quality and safety of health care in the United States through reliance on purchaser pressure and public disclosure, both of which feature prominently in the Affordable Care Act. We hope that the lessons learned from the Leapfrog Group’s experience will help purchasers and policy makers design better systems for promoting transparency, quality, and safety.”
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