Last year's Institute of Medicine report on medical errors has had vendors, politicians, and providers jumping on the patient safety bandwagon. The latest and most provocative effort to leverage the IOM report is a buying consortium spearheaded by the Business Roundtable, an invitation-only group of corporations that works to influence public policy.
The so-called Leapfrog Group already counts 60 members, including healthcare players GE, IBM, and Cerner, plus a number of Fortune 500 corporations outside of healthcare. According to BRT spokesman John Schachter, member companies will use their collective buying clout to push healthcare providers to reduce medical errors proactively. The group's members provide health benefits to more than 20 million individuals in the U.S. and spend more than $40 billion on healthcare annually.
"Employers participating in Leapfrog have agreed to promote and encourage use of the Leapfrog principles," Schachter said. "It is a market-driven solution. As hospitals get promoted publicly by employers to employees, more and more employees will be choosing based on this safety information."
Leapfrog will reach providers and encourage participation in the safety initiative by educating employees about three safety measures proven to enhance patient safety and by providing information on local facilities that have such measures in place. Research funded by BRT has shown that some 58,300 lives could be saved and up to 522,000 medication errors could be prevented annually if three guidelines are followed: computerized physician order entry, including software to prevent prescription error; evidence-based hospital referral for complex medical procedures; and the staffing of intensive care units with physicians specializing in critical care medicine.
"Members of the Leapfrog Group have set out to reduce preventable medical errors by changing the way they purchase health care," said Suzanne Delbanco, executive director of Leapfrog.
Leapfrog's purchasing principles for healthcare state that each employer must do the following:
- educate its employees on patient safety and the importance of comparing health provider performance;
- recognize and reward providers for making advances in protecting patients from preventable medical errors;
- hold health plans accountable for implementing the Leapfrog purchasing principles; and
- build the support of benefits consultants and brokers to use and lobby for these principles with all their clients.
Patients will not be the sole beneficiaries of this approach. Providers and facilities that don't already have such systems in place will have to look at ways to meet the Leapfrog mandates, and vendors who offer such Leapfrog-compliant products will be waiting. Leapfrog is planning to compensate by rewarding facilities and does not intend to penalize hospitals that are behind the patient safety curve, Delbanco said.
Since the publication of the IOM report, a multitude of vendors have based entire marketing campaigns around reducing medical errors. Handheld/wireless/electronic/etc. prescribing tools such as those offered by AllScripts, ParkStone, ePocrates, and iScribe, have popped up everywhere. Some Leapfrog members offer products that are designed to facilitate computerized physician order entry and hence reduce errors.
© 2000 Miller Freeman Inc.
11/29/00, Issue # 117, page 4.