WASHINGTON, May 7 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday that U.S. hospitals have made "major strides" towards improving safety for patients, including curbing adverse events such as falls and infections and preventing hospital readmissions.
A six-page report released by the department found a substantial nine percent decrease in harms experienced by patients in U.S. hospitals in 2012 compared to the 2010 baseline.
The biggest decline was in the country's early elective deliveries, which are down 64.5 percent during 2011 and 2012. The report also documented reductions in hospital-acquired pneumonia ( 53.2 percent), pressure ulcers (25.2 percent), obstetric trauma rate (15.8 percent), falls and trauma (14.7 percent) and venous thromboembolic complications (12.9 percent).
These improvements "are estimated have prevented nearly 15,000 deaths in hospitals, and saved 4.1 billion U.S. dollars in costs, and prevented 560,000 patient harms in 2011 and 2012," the report said.
Meanwhile, the 30-day hospital readmission rate among Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries continued its downward trend, dropping to about 17.5 percent in 2013, according to the report. The Medicare readmission rates had held constant at 19 percent from 2007 to 2011, before decreasing to 18.5 percent in 2012.
"This translates into an 8 percent reduction in the rate and an estimated 150,000 fewer hospital readmissions among Medicare beneficiaries between January 2012 and December 2013," said the report.
The U.S. department credited the decrease in part to the Affordable Care Act, under which hospitals will face financial penalties for excessive readmissions of Medicare patients.
"We applaud the nationwide network of hospital systems and providers that are working together to save lives and reduce costs, " Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.
"We are seeing a simultaneous reduction in hospital readmissions and injuries, giving patients confidence that they are receiving the best possible care and lowering their risk of having to be readmitted to the hospital after they get the care they need."