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Media Statement

For Immediate Release: April 15, 2011
Contact: CDC Online Newsroom
(404) 639-3286

CDC Supports National Initiative to Improve Patient Safety

On Tuesday, April 12, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced an initiative, the Partnership for Patients: Better Care, Lower Costs, aimed at protecting patients in America's health care facilities through the prevention of health care-acquired conditions. CDC is one of several federal agencies participating in the initiative. Medical advances have brought lifesaving care to patients in need, but many of these advances come with a risk of health care-acquired conditions, including infections, falls, pressure ulcers (or bed sores), and blood clots (known as deep vein thrombosis).

"Americans expect and deserve safe health care," said CDC director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. who has made patient safety a top priority at CDC. "CDC has an established track record of improving the quality of health care delivery. This new initiative will help protect patients and ensure that they live healthier, longer, and more productive lives while reducing healthcare costs."

Health care-acquired conditions represent a significant burden on the health care system. At any given time, about 1 in 20 patients has an infection related to hospital care. These infections cost the U.S. health care system billions of dollars each year and lead to the loss of tens of thousands of lives.

In hospitals and other health care facilities, falls are among the most frequently reported incidents for inpatients. Pressure ulcers, which can occur in health care settings or at home, affect more than 2.5 million people annually. In total, health care-acquired conditions can have devastating emotional, financial, and medical consequences.

Public health officials and clinicians know how to prevent many health care-acquired conditions. However, the problem has been in getting proven protective measures adopted and used consistently in all health care facilities. CDC works with federal, state and local public health and healthcare partners to prevent these conditions.

  • CDC conducts rapid field investigations to address emerging health care safety issues.
  • CDC conducts cutting-edge infection prevention research, turning that knowledge into evidence-based guidelines that health care providers can use.
    • Several published studies have shown that health care-associated infections (HAIs) can be decreased as much as 70 percent when existing CDC prevention recommendations are put into place. [See top CDC prevention recommendations]
  • CDC has funded 51 locally based HAI coordinators and has supported 30 state-based HAI prevention networks to drive progress toward goals in the HHS Action Plan to Eliminate Healthcare-associated Infections.
  • CDC is working with patient and professional organizations to raise awareness and promote the implementation of current clinical guidelines for the prevention of deep vein thrombosis. CDC has been actively working to prevent deep vein thrombosis by collecting statewide registry data and tracking the quality of hospitalized stroke patients for the past decade through the Paul Coverdell National Acute Stroke Registry.
  • CDC has developed a fall risk assessment tool for practitioners that can be used in clinical settings, because the most effective single approach for fall prevention is an individualized risk factor assessment by a physician or health care provider coupled with referral and treatment.

Tracking progress toward prevention is key to achieving success in improving patient safety. CDC provides the nation's health care facilities with a free system to track infections, monitor prevention progress, and collaborate with peers. The system, called the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN), is used in over 4500 U.S. hospitals and is part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services pay-for-reporting program. CDC is enhancing NHSN to track the occurrence of deep vein thrombosis and the implementation and impact of prevention measures in participating hospitals. CDC also is beginning work with the acute care community to provide guidance for tracking and preventing pressure ulcers in high-risk injured patients.

Together, public and private partners can expand upon the successes seen in individual healthcare facilities and employ these best practices nationwide to protect all Americans and ensure safe healthcare.

For more information about the Partnership for Patients, visit

For more information about preventing healthcare-associated infections (, falls (, pressure ulcers, or blood clots (, please see the CDC resources provided.


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