March 3, 2020

Whitehouse Introduces Legislation to Strengthen Patient Safety

New measures to improve safety in pediatrics, better coordinate care transitions included in Patient Safety Improvement Act

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today introduced The Patient Safety Improvement Act to strengthen patient safety.  The legislation seeks to reduce health care-associated infections (HAIs) and preserve the effectiveness of existing antibiotics.  The bill includes new measures to improve safety for pediatric patients and to encourage better transitions of care across multiple health care settings and providers.

“Health care-associated infections are a vexing challenge – dangerous for patients, difficult for doctors to treat, and costly for the entire health care system,” said Whitehouse.  “We can prevent these infections by taking steps to improve the coordination of patient care and to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics.” 

The Patient Safety Improvement Act would improve the way our health care system addresses HAIs and antibiotic stewardship.  The bill would establish a grant program to support collaboratives between health care stakeholders—like Rhode Island’s ICU Collaborative, in place from 2005 to 2012—to focus on evidence-based, regional approaches to infection prevention, control, and reporting.  It would also establish a grant program to help states develop antimicrobial stewardship action plans to educate providers and patients on the appropriate use of antibiotics and prevent the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  The bill directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct stewardship workshops in states or regions with the highest rates of prescribing antibiotics.

“The Patient Safety Improvement Act will facilitate building the community-based partnerships required to address the critical health care delivery challenges of reducing health care acquired infections and improving antibiotic stewardship,” according to H. John Keimig, President and CEO, Healthcentric Advisors, a nonprofit health care quality improvement organization.  “Improving communication among health care providers during transitions of care will not only improve the safety for individuals with infections, but for all conditions, decreasing unnecessary readmissions and emergency department use.”

A new section of the legislation aims to improve safety in pediatric care through the creation of a Pediatric Safety Advisory Council, introducing stronger reporting requirements for infections in children’s hospitals, and establishing a pilot program to test coordinated care for young adults transitioning from pediatric to adult care.

The bill also includes an authorization to provide grants for improving communication between health care providers when a patient leaves a hospital for another facility, such as a nursing home.  During these transitions of care, it is important that the entire health care team knows if a patient has acquired a health care-associated infection.

HAIs have been on the rise in the United States in recent decades.  The CDC estimates that HAIs account for an estimated 1.7 million infections and 99,000 deaths each year.  Compounding this problem is the increase in antibiotic-resistant infections, which are difficult and costly to treat, leading to $20 billion in excess health care costs annually. 

A previous version of the Patient Safety Improvement Act was introduced in 2016.



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