Hospital focuses on safety to cut costs

LOUISVILLE – Avista Adventist Hospital was able to save its patients $300,000 and improve certain safety metrics in the past two years as a result of its involvement with the Partnership for Patients campaign, a statewide initiative led by the Colorado Hospital Association.

As part of its participation, Avista Adventist focused on improving quality of care and safety in 11 areas, including readmissions within 30 days, ventilator-associated pneumonias and falls.

The initiative is a public-private partnership set up by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that aims to reduce inpatient harm by 40 percent and avoidable readmissions by 20 percent at hospitals nationwide over a two- to three-year period.

The campaign utilizes engagement networks to give hospitals access to a set of best practices for each focus area and challenges them to reduce the number of problems that occur, said Nancy Griffiths, the Colorado Hospital Association director of quality improvement and patient safety.

CMS has spent $98 million in 33 states, covering the cost of education programs, webinars and site visits to help educate hospitals on the best ways to improve patient safety and quality of care, Griffiths said.

The hospital association brought the program to Colorado in 2012 and made it available to any hospital in the state.

Avista Adventist was the only hospital in Northern Colorado or the Boulder Valley to participate in the two-year program, according to the hospital association. Fifty-five hospitals participated statewide, resulting in $8.4 million in reduced health care costs and 916 fewer episodes of patient harm or readmission, according to CHA data.

Avista Adventist was able to reduce its rate of readmission within 30 days by 33 percent by tracking patients as they transitioned from the hospital to their homes and carefully monitoring their at-home medication regimes and follow-up appointments, said Kim Crawford, director of quality at the hospital.

In addition, the hospital cut the occurrence of ventilator-associated pneumonia by 40 percent and its instances of bloodstream infections related to a central line by 100 percent, meaning that the hospital had no instances of such infections in the past 18 months, said Dennis Barts, the hospital’s chief executive.

Small hospitals such as Avista Adventist, which has 114 beds, must use their resources carefully in order to maintain the desired level of care, Barts said. Entering a program such as the Partnership for Patients helped hospital employees learn good ways to improve quality by following protocols set forward by the program without increasing cost.

For example, the hospital used the program to bring down the number of avoidable falls, Barts said. Although falls are a big issue in hospitals, Barts said, Avista Adventist was able to reduce them by 40 percent by documenting when patients were at risk to fall and by executing patient safety reviews with the entire team of people assigned to each patient.

Avista Adventist already was trying to improve many of the metrics included in the focus groups, Barts said, but involvement in the program allowed it to move its own processes forward.

“Patients are going to be safer for years and years to come,” Barts said.

Molly Armbrister can be reached at 970-232-3129, 303-630-1969 or Follow her on Twitter at @marmbristerBW.

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Molly Armbrister covers real estate, banking and health care for the Northern Colorado Business Report. She can be reached at 970-232-3139, or

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