Corporate Compliance

Q&A: Are all hospital acquired conditions (HACs) also 'never-events'?

Compliance Monitor, May 13, 2009

Q: Are all hospital acquired conditions (HACs) also “never-events”?

A: Although there is some overlap, not all HACs are never events, says Kimberly Anderwood Hoy, JD, CPC, director of Medicare and compliance at HCPro, Inc., in Marblehead, MA.

“People often get these confused and assume that the hospital-acquired conditions are never events. [HACs] are just reasonably preventable events,” she says. “You can’t prevent every single infection.”
Gennady Beyzarov, MBA, CICA, performance data analyst at Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, NY, considers one an extension of the other. “A never event is actually a subsidiary of a hospital-acquired condition. It has to be hospital-acquired to be a never event.”
A never event is more serious than a HAC, says Beyzarov.
Although the two lists are different, the following five HACs are also considered never events:
  • Retained foreign object after surgery (e.g., leaving a sponge in a patient)
  • Air embolism
  • Injuries related to falls and traumatic events such as electric shock and burns
  • Blood incompatibility
  • Stage III and IV pressure ulcers 
“Clearly, the two lists overlap, but they’re not the same. Those three [wrong-site surgery] never events are not on the HAC list. They are just categorically different,” Hoy says. “The HACs are still considered covered services, whereas those three never events are never covered.” 

This question and answer is adapted from the article “Understand how never events, HACs differ” which appears in the May 2009 issue of the HCPro newsletter Healthcare Auditing Strategies.

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