A new study finds a group of New Jersey hospitals is doing a better job of preventing infections, falls and readmissions of patients, key measures at a time when the quality of health care is receiving deeper scrutiny.
The New Jersey Hospital Association released data last week culled from reports in various government agencies from 62 hospitals that are taking part in a nationwide initiative to improve the quality of care. The New Jersey collective is one of 26 such efforts across the country in an effort organized by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as part of President Barack Obama's 2010 overhaul of the health care system.
While the highest-profile health care changes in the federal law deal with insurance, parts of the act also aim to improve the quality of care, including the Making Care Safer initiative. That initiative aims to reduce preventable complications in hospitals by 40 percent and the number of hospital readmissions by 20 percent from 2010 through the end of this year.
The newly compiled data, which compares statistics from 2010 to the most recently available numbers from various quarters in 2012, show that New Jersey has met some goals already.
Aline Hughes, senior vice president for clinical affairs at the New Jersey hospital group, said she believes the state is making quick progress largely because her organization has been working with hospitals to reduce complications for 11 years through seminars, conference calls and email groups that let hospital officials share what works for them.
The rate of patients suffering from falls while hospitalized, contracting pneumonia while on ventilators and getting bedsores was down by more than 40 percent.
There were less dramatic but statistically significant drops in several specific types of infections, adverse drug reactions and blood clots because of immobilization.
Of all those things that can go awry, the drug reactions are the most common, happening last year to 7.7 percent of those admitted to hospitals. The other issues occur less often — all of them in less than 4 percent of patients.
"At some point, we don't know how low we can go," Hughes said of the infection rates.
The one area where the New Jersey hospitals didn't make progress was in reducing the percentage of elective early deliveries. In 2010, 2.8 percent of babies were electively delivered before 39 weeks. Last year, it was 2.9 percent.
Patients were also less likely to be readmitted to a hospital for any reason within 30 days after they were discharged. The readmission rate dropped to 20.4 percent from 21.8 percent, a decline of more than 6 percent over 2010.
Data for individual hospitals were not available Saturday.