Patient Safety

At HMSA, we want to help keep our members safe and protected. That’s why we’ve incorporated a number of standards and procedures to reward quality health care and keep medical errors minimal.

Why is patient safety so important?

Since patient safety was first brought to light in the 1990s, studies have shown a staggering number of patients harmed by preventable medical errors. These errors include systems failures, human factors, complicated technologies, powerful drugs, prolonged hospital stays, and cost-cutting measures, to name a few. Medical errors can cause serious injury or death and result in billions of dollars in excess health care costs nationwide each year. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one out of every 10 patients worldwide is impacted by these errors.

What is HMSA doing to help ensure patient safety?

HMSA has established a patient safety committee to work on new and existing patient safety initiatives. We’ve highlighted just a few of them below:

Surgical safety checklist

In an effort to help improve the safety of surgery patients around the world, the WHO developed the Safe Surgery Saves Lives Checklist in 2008. With the input of worldwide medical professionals, the 19-point checklist for surgeons was developed and piloted in hospitals in eight cities. Deaths and complications dropped by about one-third in the participating hospitals.

In response to the success of the WHO pilot program, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) adopted the Blue Surgical Safety Checklist and is encouraging participating hospitals nationwide to use it. HMSA is supporting this effort by urging hospitals in Hawaii to adopt the checklist and by sharing it with members and urging them to discuss it with their surgeon.

Currently, hospitals in Hawaii are beginning to pledge to adopt the WHO or BCBSA checklist.

Never Events and Hospital-Acquired Conditions

HMSA recently adopted the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Never Events program. Never Events are defined as adverse events or errors in medical care that are clearly identifiable, preventable, and serious in their consequences for patients. The program focuses on improving quality by avoiding preventable situations with adverse outcomes in hospitals. Under this policy, providers and/or hospitals will no longer be reimbursed for certain preventable errors occurring after a patient’s admission to a hospital that lead to death, disability or unnecessary costs. HMSA is following CMS’ lead and aligning its payment policy to be consistent with CMS.

As of January 1, 2010, HMSA won’t reimburse providers of HMSA members for CMS’ 15 identified Never Events and Hospital-Acquired Conditions3. (Note: this program doesn’t apply to the HMSA Plan for QUEST Members.) These include surgery on the wrong patient, surgery on the wrong body part, wrong surgical procedure on a patient, foreign object left in patient, and patient death or serious disability due to incompatible blood or blood products.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 80,000 episodes of bloodstream infections due to central-line catheters each year in the United States, and more than half of them are preventable.

HMSA is providing funding and support for Hawaii to participate in a national effort to eliminate deadly catheter-related bloodstream infections in hospitals. ‘Stop Bloodstream Infections,’ an initiative developed by the Johns Hopkins University Quality and Safety Research Group, has generated significant results nationwide. Since Hawaii was accepted to participate in the collaboration, HMSA has been working with all 17 hospitals with intensive-care units in Hawaii to reduce deadly infections related to the use of catheters. There’s been a decline in the number of catheter-related bloodstream infections in Hawaii’s hospitals since this campaign began.

In addition to reducing bloodstream infections, this program promotes a culture of safety that can be expanded to other hospital-improvement programs.

Working for You

At HMSA, patient safety is a top priority; we’re excited to offer these additional safeguards to our members. We hope this added protection will help keep you and your family feeling safe and secure with your health care needs and help foster HMSA’s goal of working for a healthier Hawaii.

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