'Tis the season, right? So let's shed light on some of the positive things happening in health care.
This week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality issued reports which, when viewed together, suggest that the nation's health care system is making strides in curbing costs and saving lives.
Spending first. Health care spending grew by 3.6 percent in 2013, according to CMS' annual look at health expenditures. That's the slowest rate of growth since 1960, said Micah Hartman, a statistician in the office of the actuary, during a press call yesterday.
Spending has kept this relatively slow pace of growth for five consecutive years, holding steady between 3.6 and 4.1 percent. Hartman added that the 2013 numbers are consistent with overall economic growth, a trend that the office of the actuary has identified in post-recessionary periods dating to 1989.
The report notes that spending on hospital care hit $936 billion in 2013, a 4.3 percent increase over the previous year. However, that's lower than the 5.7 percent increase in 2012. That pace of change can be attributed to several factors: slower increases in hospital prices, lower utilization for inpatient services, reductions in readmissions, and more, according to CMS.
As most of you know, the pressure to continue to reduce costs and the migration of many services to outpatient care are likely to continue this trend.
Equally as important was news coming from AHRQ earlier this week on how hospitals are preventing patient harm and deaths.
Between 2010 and 2013, hospitals achieved a 17 percent decline in health care-acquired conditions, preventing nearly 50,000 deaths. From an economic standpoint, that equates to $12 billion in savings.
"These data represent significant progress in improving the quality of care that patients receive while spending our health care dollars more wisely. Health & Human Services will work with partners across the country to continue to build on this progress," HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said in a statement.
HHS officials pointed to ACA provisions that penalize hospitals for high infection rates as one driver behind the improvement. However, the national Hospital Engagement Network initiative also allowed organizations to come together and share best practices in an effort to reduce patient harm. Our November cover story analyzed some of the achievements under HEN.