Wisconsin Hospitals Quality Improvement Efforts Reduce Health Care Costs by $46 million

Quality care increases patient safety, reduces health care costs, builds value

Mary Kay Grasmick, 608-274-1820, 575-7516


MADISON (January 21 2014) --- Wisconsin hospitals’ efforts to improve the quality and safety of the patient care have reduced health care costs in Wisconsin by an estimated $45.6 million, according to a new report released by the Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA).


Quality Report InfographicMore than 100 hospitals working together with WHA have reduced readmissions, prevented hospital-associated infections and adverse events related to insulin, and reduced the number of babies delivered before 39 weeks. 

One of the most dramatic decreases was in the number of patients readmitted to the hospital after an inpatient stay. The average readmission costs $9,600. The hospitals that are working on this have already prevented 3,556 readmissions and reduced health care costs in Wisconsin by about $34 million.

Another equally important focus area is infection prevention. Hospitals have worked to reduce three types of infections: central line-associated blood stream, surgical site and catheter-associated urinary tract. The hospitals’ dedicated efforts to stop hospital-associated infections saved more than $10 million in health care costs and improved the care for more than 1,000 patients who were at an increased risk for an infection. 

“When improvement work reduces hospital-associated infections and readmissions it translates into cost savings, and that is a value for patients, employers and insurers,” according to WHA President Steve Brenton.

The WHA report also documents positive quality improvement results in the following areas (See Chart A below):

  • 42 percent reduction in central line-associated blood stream infections, safer care for 311 patients and nearly $6 million in avoided costs between 2008-2013;
  • 37 percent reduction in surgical site infections, safer care for 228 patients and nearly $5 million in avoided health care costs from 2012-2013;
  • 33 percent reduction in catheter-associated urinary tract infections, safer care for 573 patients and $429,000 in avoided hospital costs from 2011-2013;
  • 26 percent reduction in falls, safer care for 176 patients, and savings of $429,750 between 2012-2013; and,
  • 78 percent reduction in early elective deliveries (before 39 weeks gestation), safer care for 291 infants, and $211,922 in avoided costs from 2012-2013.

“Achieving and delivering this high level of excellence in clinical performance does not happen by chance.  It takes organizational commitment and human and financial resources to design and improve processes that drive out harm and reduce waste,” according to WHA Chief Quality Officer Kelly Court.  “Every member of the health team, including physicians, nurses, support staff and leaders at all levels must adhere to the clinical processes and hold others accountable as well.”

WHA and 108 hospitals have just completed the second year of improvement work under a subcontract with the American Hospital Association Health Research & Educational Trust to work on the federal Partnership for Patients initiative. The Partnership for Patients’ goal is focused on reducing hospital readmissions by 20 percent and hospital acquired harm by 40 percent. While 108 Wisconsin hospitals are working directly with WHA, 19 more are working with other hospital engagement networks to achieve the same aims. That means 98 percent of Wisconsin hospitals are actively engaged in improving care on these important topics.

“Wisconsin is a recognized leader in health care quality and value. Our goal is to ensure that every patient in our state receives the finest care possible no matter where they go for that care. Through our collaboration on quality improvement, that goal is in range,” said Brenton. “As much as hospitals have been able to significantly improve care, however, Wisconsin health care leaders are keenly aware that their work is far from over.” 

Other highlights from the report include:

  • Wisconsin is the third best state for average net incentive/penalty payments in the Medicare Value-Based Purchasing program.
  • The report highlights hospital-specific examples of quality improvement activities in communities across the state.
  • Transforming Care at the Bedside* is a program being led by WHA staff that engages front-line staff in self-directed quality work. It has been successful in improving quality on medical and surgical units and among hospitals that are implementing TCAB, the patients’ personal experience has improved in part due to better communication at the front lines of care.


Topic Area

Patients with Improved Care

Estimated Cost Savings




Central Line-Associated Blood Stream Infection



Surgical Site Infections



Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection



Adverse Drug Events



Early Elective Deliveries






Pressure Ulcers



Venous Thromboembolism




Grand Totals





*Since 2008; **Since 2011  All others are since Jan 2012 – Sept 2013


* TCAB is a project of Aligning Forces for Quality, an initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to improve the quality of health and health care in targeted communities around the country, through a grant to the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality (WCHQ).



WHA Contact:

Mary Kay Grasmick

Vice President, Communications