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How much could patient safety save us?

Anthem Blue Cross, the National Health Foundation and California's three regional Hospital Associations --San Diego & Imperial Counties, Southern California and Northern and Central California -- enter into an historic partnership for patient safety.

The Institute of Medicine reports that as many as 98,000 patients in American hospitals die of avoidable medical errors each year. The human cost of these errors can't be calculated. The cost to the health care system has been estimated at upwards of 11 billion dollars each year.

To address this critical issue, Anthem Blue Cross has entered into a groundbreaking partnership called "Patient Safety First ... a California Partnership for Health," recognizing that in order to provide affordable access to quality care, health plans, hospitals and physicians must find effective ways of working together.

And working together is exactly what they are doing. Hospitals throughout the state of California are linking in a coordinated effort to improve patient safety through the sharing and implementation of best practices to eliminate hospital-acquired infections and improve patient care. The initiative is expected to save lives, improve the quality of medical care and reduce health care costs to make health care more affordable for the people of California.

Building on past efforts … and going further

Individual hospitals or hospital systems have undertaken patient safety and quality initiatives, but the impact has been limited to the population within that system. By working together in this way and reaching out across the industry, these organizations are attempting something unprecedented in scope and ambition.

The focus will be on three key areas of patient safety:

* Perinatal Care -- Reduction of elective deliveries prior to 39 weeks

* Sepsis -- Reduction of incidence and morbidity

* Hospital Acquired Infections in the ICU Setting -- Reduction of incidence of ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP), central line blood stream infections (CLBSI) and catheter associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI)

This partnership builds on established peer-to-peer learning networks like BEACON -- The Bay Area Patient Safety Collaborative and the Southern California Patient Safety Collaborative. It also complements the work of the March of Dimes, particularly in the area of perinatal care, prematurity, and teaching women why the last weeks of pregnancy can be critical to the health of the mother and baby.

Art Sponseller, representing the three Regional Hospital Associations, declared his organization's support and full participation "in making this new venture successful and measurably effective in the achievement of these goals. This mutual alignment creates a unique opportunity to positively impact the lives of the patients we all serve."

While it's clear that those involved have their work cut out for them, turning these ambitious goals into real, on-the-ground results, it's also clear that passion for this project is running very high on all sides of the health care industry.

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