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September 2009

HHS Allocating $25 Million to Address Patient Safety and Medical Liability

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced that it is allocating $25 million to address patient safety and medical liability.  Through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality(AHRQ), HHS will provide grants of up to $3 million each to states and health care systems wanting to implement or evaluate demonstration projects aimed at improving patient safety while fixing the problems with the liability system.  There will also be smaller planning grants available for up to $300,000.  AHRQ will also conduct a "review of what works," to be done by December 2009, of initiatives to improve quality and reduce medical liability to help guide HHS' work and investments in this area.

The Funding Opportunity Announcement will be available on www.grants.gov by October 17, 2009.

AHRQ Updates Data Standards for Patient Safety Organizations

39161571 The Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005 aims to improve the safety and quality of health care in the U.S. through voluntary reporting by clinicians and health care organizations of patient safety and quality information without fear of legal discovery.  The basic idea is that if every health care provider shares information about incidences in which patients were adversely affected, we can aggregate and analyze these experiences to gain more insight into how to improve care. 

The Act charged the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) with creating standards for data submitted to Patient Safety Organizations.  Without data standards, aggregating and analyzing the data will be as difficult as comparing the proverbial apple to an orange.

AHRQ initiated standards development process by issuing and working with Version 0.1 Beta, but now has announced in the Federal Register the release of Common Formats Version 1.0.  The Common Formats span definitions and reporting formats and relate to all patient safety concerns, including healthcare-associated infections, falls and pressure ulcers.  This is an important step forward in realizing the goals of the Act.

Protecting Healthcare Workers from H1N1 While They Work

39170697 Just before the Labor Day weekend, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued recommendations for how health care workers can protect themselves from H1N1 in the work place.  Commissioned by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, the report has fewer evidence-based recommendations for healthcare workers than it has suggestions for needed research.

For healthcare workers who encounter patients with unidentified febrile respiratory illness or in close contact with those known or suspected to have H1N1, the IOM report suggests they wear "fit-tested" N95 respirators or others equally or more effective.  This recommendation builds on CDC and World Health Organization guidelines, which also point to the importance of vigilant hand hygiene practices in all situations involving H1N1, and to isolation precautions (gloves, gowns, eye protection, masks).

But because the evidence is very limited for what protections to use when, the IOM recommends future research on influenza transmission and respiratory protection, particularly in the clinical setting.

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