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Aetna Incorporates Patient Safety Language into Hospital Contracts


Policy aims to focus attention on preventing medical errors and encourage change through shared information

As part of its commitment to improving patient safety, Aetna (NYSE: ΑET) has incorporated language from the Leapfrog Group’s Never Events policy in its hospital contract templates for negotiations or renegotiations that use a new contract. ’Never events’ are a list of occurrences compiled by the National Quality Forum that so threaten patient safety that they should never happen. These include surgery performed on the wrong body part or on the wrong patient, leaving a foreign object inside a patient after surgery, or discharging an infant to the wrong person.

“Fortunately, these events are quite rare. However, it is important to take steps that will increase hospitals’ focus on why ’never events’ happen, promote shared information and facilitate improved processes that will prevent future events,” said Troyen Brennan, M.D., Aetna’s chief medical officer. “More than 600 hospitals across the country already have agreed to report these events voluntarily. We want to support their leadership and safer health care for all patients.”

The language included in Aetna’s template for hospital contracts calls for hospitals to report the medical error to at least one of the following agencies within 10 days of becoming aware it has occurred: the Joint Commission for Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), state reporting programs for medical errors, or patient safety organizations. Hospitals also are asked to take action to prevent future events, waive all costs related to a serious reportable event (“never event”), and apologize to the patient and/or family affected by the never event.

“Shared knowledge has the power to improve care. Only by identifying patterns of patient safety risks and understanding their causes can we ultimately implement change. We hope this strategy will lead to broader adoption of quality measures and reporting, and we encourage others in health care to support this effort,” said Dr. Brennan.

Aetna was the first health plan to endorse the Leapfrog Group’s approach to ’never events,’ including public recognition of hospitals that voluntarily develop procedures around reporting these events.

Patient safety is one of the nation’s most pressing health challenges. Since the publication of the Institute of Medicine’s 1999 report on medical errors, To Err Is Human, public attention has focused on patient safety and the prevention of medical errors.

Aetna has a history of activities aimed at increasing patient safety that include e-prescribing pilots and covering online communications between doctors and patients. The company’s MedQuery program uses Aetna’s vast stores of member health data to identify opportunities to improve the safety and quality of the care Aetna members receive. The company also has built patient safety warnings into its personal health record, and makes patient safety information and tools available to members on its website including comparative ratings of hospitals based on guidelines approved by the Consumer Purchaser Disclosure Project (CPDP) and Leapfrog.

About Aetna
Aetna is one of the nation’s leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving approximately 36.4 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life and disability plans, and medical management capabilities and health care management services for Medicaid plans. Our customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, government-sponsored plans and expatriates.


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