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Physician Patient Alliance for Health & Safety: CMS Quality Measures Should Include Continuous Electronic Monitoring of Patients Using Patient-Controlled Analgesia

CHICAGO, Dec. 13, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently released the quality measures it is considering for adoption through rulemaking for the Medicare program. One of the measures under consideration (proposed quality measure #3040) calls for "appropriate monitoring of patients receiving PCA [patient-controlled analgesia]".

CMS defines "quality measures" as

"tools that help us measure or quantify healthcare processes, outcomes, patient perceptions, and organizational structure and/or systems that are associated with the ability to provide high-quality health care and/or that relate to one or more quality goals for health care. These goals include: effective, safe, efficient, patient-centered, equitable, and timely care."

More specifically, CMS is proposing that for "All patient admissions with initiation of an opioid via an IV PCA device that is active for more than 2.5 continuous hours" that these patients be monitored for "respiratory rate, sedation score and pulse oximetry".

Patient safety will be improved by monitoring patients. A tragic example is that of Amanda Abbiehl, an 18-year old college bound high school student. As her parents, Brian and Cindy Abbiehl explain,"Our 18-year old daughter, Amanda, died when connected with to a patient-controlled analgesia pump. Had she been monitored for adequacy of ventilation with capnography and oxygenation with pulse oximetry perhaps one of her nurses might have noticed her declining state and she would still be alive today."

However, the CMS proposed quality measure in requiring monitoring for "respiratory rate, sedation score and pulse oximetry" does not go far enough.

Michael Wong, Executive Director for the Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety (PPAHS), explains, "To make sure that there are no other Amandas, whether that be someone's sister, father, grandmother, friend, or neighbor, it is essential to include continuous electronic monitoring for the adequacy of ventilation with capnography and oxygenation with pulse oximetry, as recommended by the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation.  This would ensure that there is an electronic safety net for all patients using patient-controlled analgesia pumps, so that they can receive there prescribed pain medication without the risk of adverse event."

PPAHS encourages people to contact CMS to express their support for proposed measure #3040 to adequately monitor patients using PCA:

  • Email:
  • Subject line: CMS Proposed Quality Measure #3040
  • Message suggestion: "Please adopt measure #3040 to ensure the safety of patients using patient-controlled analgesia by ensuring that all patients are continuously electronically monitored for ventilation with capnography and oxygenation with oximetry, as recommended by the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation."

Or, send a message to PPAHS by clicking here.


The Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety (PPAHS) is an advocacy group devoted to improving patient health and safety. PPAHS supporters include physicians, patients, individuals, and organizations.

PPAHS recently released a concise checklist that reminds caregivers of the essential steps needed to be taken to initiate Patient-Controlled Analgesia (PCA) with a patient and to continue to assess that patient's use of PCA. For more information and to download the PCA safety checklist, please visit

Michael Wong
Executive Director

SOURCE Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety
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