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Aetna U.S. Healthcare® Announces $840,000 in Research Grants Focused on Studying and Reducing Medical Errors

Submitted by: Aetna, Inc.

Categories: Philanthropy & Corporate Contributions

Posted: Aug 10, 2000 – 12:00 AM EST


Research ranging from improving medication safety to controlling infection in long-term care facilities

Aug. 10 /CSRwire/ - Aetna U.S. Healthcare and the Aetna Foundation today announced an important step in the national campaign against medical error - $840,000 in grants to researchers at five leading academic institutions to study such issues as reducing medication errors, controlling infection in long-term care facilities, and improving safety for surgical patients.

According to a 1999 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, medical errors account for between 44,000 and 98,000 deaths each year in the United States. The IOM study caused a surge of public interest in the topic and led to a Presidential Order to attack the issue. In response to the report, Aetna U.S. Healthcare announced in January that it would devote up to $1 million to fund original research to develop and evaluate strategies to reduce medical errors. As a result, five grants were awarded today by the Aetna Quality Care Research Fund. The grants will be administered by the Academic Medicine and Managed Care Forum ("Forum"), an alliance of 51 academic medical centers and teaching hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and Aetna U.S. Healthcare.

"As the IOM study indicates, patient safety is a critical issue that the medical community must expand its efforts to address. Aetna U.S. Healthcare has a tremendous opportunity to play a role in this important national initiative through our activities as the nation's leading health insurer and a funder of outcomes-based research," said John T. Kelly, M.D., Aetna U.S. Healthcare's director of physician relations. "We're pleased that researchers at some of the nation's leading academic institutions have agreed to undertake research into how and why medical errors happen, so that we can make progress in preventing avoidable complications."

After the January announcement of the request for proposals, an expedited peer review process was implemented for these grant proposals so that research could begin as quickly as possible. The selection committee included representatives from an academic institution that participates in the Forum, the American Hospital Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, and Aetna U.S. Healthcare. The grants awarded include:

$209,147 to the University of Washington for "A multidisciplinary approach to improving surgical patient safety"
$208,162 to Emory University for "Administrative pharmacy data: a potential surveillance system for outpatient adverse drug reactions?"
$198,570 to the University of Alabama at Birmingham for "Data mining-enhanced infection control for long-term care facilities"
$174,375 to the University of Texas - Houston School of Public Health for "Improving medication safety by learning from experience"
$50,000 to the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine for "The relationship between medication management and literacy in community dwelling older adults"
All of the studies will commence by Oct. 1, 2000 and are being funded for a maximum of two years. Study results will be published in peer reviewed journals.
In addition to Aetna U.S. Healthcare's funding of outcomes based research, U.S. Quality Algorithms (USQA®), Aetna U.S. Healthcare's performance measurement subsidiary, has collaborated with researchers on a variety of Forum projects. As part of its study of adverse drug reactions, Emory University researchers will study the effectiveness of USQA's Pharmacy Clinical Performance Report as a surveillance method to identify Aetna U.S. Healthcare Medicare members taking a potentially contraindicated drug.

"Administrative data collected by health plans are currently being used to monitor and improve the quality of medical care delivered to patients, by using HEDIS measures, for example, to improve performance. We are interested in seeing whether or not health plan data can also be used to improve patient safety by identifying patients at risk of suffering a medication-related adverse event," said Kimberly J. Rask, M.D., Ph.D, assistant professor of medicine and assistant professor of health policy and management, Emory University. Dr. Rask, the researcher leading the Emory University study, added, "By providing much-needed funding and access to administrative data through USQA, Aetna U.S. Healthcare is moving us closer to reaching our ultimate goal of reducing the incidence of medication errors."

The Academic Medicine and Managed Care Forum was created by Aetna U.S. Healthcare in 1996 to provide an open opportunity for the exchange of ideas and best practices. At its most recent meeting, the Forum hosted a day-long discussion of medical errors by some of the nation's leading experts in the field including Dr. Lucian L. Leape, adjunct professor of health policy at the Harvard School of Public Health, and Dr. William B. Weeks, director of the VA Center for Learning About the Improvement of Patient Safety. The Quality Care Research Fund was founded in 1997 and has awarded over $20 million in research grants in the past three years.

In addition to today's announcement of research grants, Aetna U.S. Healthcare has undertaken a concerted campaign to help health care providers reduce medical errors. This includes the development of programs that integrate medical and pharmacy data in order to detect and, hopefully, allow physicians to prevent potentially harmful drug-to-drug and drug-to-disease interactions; encouraging physician use of hand-held prescribing devices to reduce medication errors resulting from handwriting mistakes; USQA-produced physician report cards tracking care patterns for asthma, heart disease and diabetes; facilitating the use of the Internet in every physicians' office in the United States by providing physicians with free Internet access through NetZero and discounted computers through Hewlett-Packard; and the InteliHealth® consumer health information website, now the Internet home of consumer health information from Harvard Medical School, which provides a drug index, disease-specific information, and on-line chats with leading health experts. In addition, USQA plans to produce reports during the year 2000 designed to help participating hospitals identify opportunities for improved clinical performance and assist their efforts to reduce avoidable medical errors.

Aetna U.S. Healthcare, the health benefits unit of Aetna Inc. (NYSE: AET), is the nation's leading health and related benefits organization, providing a full spectrum of products ranging from health maintenance organizations (HMOs) to indemnity health insurance, group life and disability products, and dental, vision, and pharmacy benefits. The company provides products and services to 19.4 million health, 11.5 million group insurance, and 14.6 million dental members nationwide.

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