Medicare is preparing to penalize more than 750 hospitals that have the highest rates of infections and patient injuries, Iowa Public Radio reported

The sanctions, estimated to total $330 million over a year, will kick in at a time when most infections and accidents in hospitals are on the decline, but remain too common.

Thirty-one Iowa hospitals were included on the list of hospitals that could potentially be penalized. Some of them may avoid the penalties in the fall after federal officials factor into their analysis an additional year of infections.  


Three of those hospitals -  Grinnell Regional Medical Center, Skiff Medical Center in Newton and Trinity Regional Medical Center in Fort Dodge -  were listed among 175 U.S. hospitals with the highest hospital acquired complication scores, meaning they are the most likely to be penalized. Click here to see a list compiled by Kaiser Health News.


In 2012, one of every eight patients nationally suffered a potentially avoidable complication during a hospital stay, the government estimates. Even infections that are waning are not decreasing fast enough to meet targets set by federal health officials. Meanwhile, new strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are making infections much harder to cure.


The Iowa Healthcare Collaborative, which coordinates a comprehensive statewide quality improvement program for Iowa hospitals, announced in February that its efforts had prevented potential harm to more than 4,300 patients last year and reduced health care costs by more than $51 million. One of the goals of the program, which is part of the federal Partnership for Patients initiative, is to reduce patient harm by 40 percent and hospital readmission rates by 20 percent.


The Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction Program, created by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is the third of the mandatory pay-for-performance programs established under the federal health law. The first levies penalties against hospitals with high readmission rates, and the second awards bonuses or penalties based on two dozen quality measures. Both programs are in their second year. Click here to read a Business Record article about the quality bonus program.