“[The doctor] literally grabbed me by the hand and took me out into the hallway. He said, ‘Your mother is very sick. Her health is failing.’ I said, ‘Sir, it’s not her blood levels. It’s whatever she has caught in this hospital.’ He said to me, ‘Look, do you think I’d just discharge your mother to let her die in a nursing home?’ And I said, ‘Yes, sir, that’s exactly what I think you are doing.'” The doctor left without another word about discharge. […] My mother’s life was far too valuable to have ended this way.”

– Reverend Sally Jo Snyder, Pennsylvania Campaign for Better Care

By now, our readers may have heard about the recent launch of the Obama Administration’s Partnership for Patients: Better Care, Lower Costs (the Partnership), a new public-private initiative aimed at improving care quality and coordination. But did you also know about the Healthy Hospital Initiative? It’s the other new kid on the block — courtesy of the Campaign for Better Care — and it’s working to make sure this new effort to improve care goes down with adequate community representation and patient perspectives. Here’s the skinny on both efforts and what they might mean for your community.

First, the Facts Past data shows that almost one in every 20 patients will experience an infection related to their hospital care. That’s about 1.7 million people nationwide. Of those, almost 100,000 people will die as the result of a medical error this year. Older Americans are even more susceptible: One of every seven Medicare beneficiaries is harmed in the course of their care, and one in five Medicare patients discharged from a hospital will be readmitted within 30 days, due partly to lack of appropriate coordination and support for people transitioning into rehab or other facilities. The cost to Medicare for readmissions alone runs upwards of $26 billion every year.

We can’t afford to pay for this kind of care. And as patients and community members, we shouldn’t accept exposure to infections and poor care as an unavoidable risk within our health care system.

The Partnership for Patients: A Smart Move in the Right Direction Fortunately, the Partnership takes several steps to address these problems.

First, it will work with stakeholders — including patients, community groups and advocates — to lower the rates of preventable hospital-acquired conditions by 40 percent and hospital readmissions by 20 percent, all by 2013. (Not coincidentally, the Affordable Care Act includes provisions that will reduce Medicare payments to hospitals for hospital-acquired infections in the coming years. The Partnership will give hospitals an opportunity to take early steps to improve care and skirt financial penalties.) As an initial step, HHS is looking for hospitals, employers, payers, community groups, state and local government officials and others to sign a pledge to improve care coordination and quality.

But there’s more. HHS is currently accepting applications on a rolling basis for the Community-Based Care Transitions Program (CCTP) a new Medicare demonstration project authorized by the ACA. To apply for some of the $500 million in CCTP funding, acute-care hospitals have to partner with community-based organizations, such as area agencies on aging, that offer care transition services and include adequate consumer representation on their governing boards.

The Healthy Hospital Initiative: Demanding Better Care at the Bedside and Beyond The Partnership is an important step to improving care and quality. But it’s not the only step. And it certainly won’t reach its full potential without engaging communities, patients and families to collaborate with and — where necessary — hold hospitals, providers, and government accountable for achieving Partnership goals.

That’s why we, along with other state and national organizations involved with the Campaign for Better Care , decided to launch a Healthy Hospital Initiative. We’ll build on the new federal initiative to ensure that patients, family members, and communities have the tools they need to participate fully in the Partnership and to push the envelope with providers and others, when necessary. Over the coming weeks, the Healthy Hospital Initiative will be rolling out more tools to help community groups gear up for this level of involvement.

How You Can Become Involved What can you do right now to support the Partnership for Patients?

  • — Link up with the Healthy Hospital Initiative.
  • — Identify families in your networks who’ve been harmed by hospital-acquired infections, and let them know how their stories can be powerful tools to increase awareness about the need for these new programs.
  • — Sign the Partnership pledge, and encourage local hospitals and providers to do the same. To see a list of the hospitals and others that have already pledged in your state, check out the Partnership map and database.
  • — Reach out to your regional HHS director to find out more about local or regional efforts to build the Partnership, and offer to get involved.
  • — Learn more about patient safety.
  • — Reach out to hospitals and other providers in your area about developing a proposal to participate in the Community-Based Care Transitions Program.

— Jessica Curtis, Policy Analyst, Integrated Care Advocacy Project