Hospitals need to focus more on reducing preventable errors and infections and the government must create more economic incentives to improve patient safety, Vice President Joe Biden said at a conference in Irvine, Calif. over the weekend.

“Up until now, our health care system, in my humble opinion, hasn’t sufficiently linked quality … with safety,” he said. “Not enough time has been focused on keeping bad things from happening.”

But Biden said the paradigm is starting to change. Hospitals are now penalized for unnecessary readmissions and new technology alerts nurses of possible problems and reduces the reliance on handwritten doctors’ orders.

Vice President Joe Biden meets with health care officials for a talk at the Homegirl Cafe on January 23, 2015 in downtown Los Angeles, California.

Gains have been made in improving hand hygiene and reducing central line infections, he said. And a recent government report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that 1.3 million fewer hospital-acquired conditions occurred – and 50,000 fewer deaths – in 2013, compared to 2010.

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