Despite meaningful gains, well-intentioned efforts to improve patient safety continue to fall short of expectations. In part, that may be because there’s a missing player – financial leaders in the organizations making business investments in safety. A recent report from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement/National Patient Safety Foundation advises clinical and safety leaders to work together with colleagues in finance to make the business case for patient safety. While the cost of improvement programs is easy to calculate, financial benefits to the organization, including better workplace safety, staff retention, and reputation, are harder to quantify.
Without losing sight of the moral imperative to avoid harm from medical errors, researchers are trying to put a price tag on the cost to organizations. In a 2015 studya team from Adventist Health System looked at 716,172 hospital inpatient discharges across 24 hospitals in the southern and central United States and found the following mean total cost of hospitalizations:
- $6,498 for patients who didn’t experience a harm;
- $10,224 for patients with temporary harm, and
- $16,201 for patients with permanent harm to their health.
All told, the hospitals could have saved $201 million annually and reduced stays by 93,000 patient days in the time period studied.
“Organizations are trying to increase access, efficiency, quality and safety,” says Tejal K. Gandhi, M.D., IHI’s Chief Clinical and Safety Officer and a contributor to Optimizing a Business Case for Safe Health Care: An Integrated Approach to Safety and Finance, a toolkit for organizations looking to strengthen ties between their clinical and financial teams.