A new report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) found that significant strides are being made in reducing Medicare patient readmissions to hospitals. The government agency acknowledged that there is still a ways to go in order to meet its patient-safety goals but is moving forward when it comes to preventing return trips to hospitals and reducing falls and infections in admitted patients.

According to the report, all-cause 30-day readmission rates for Medicare beneficiaries dropped to 17.5 percent in 2013 compared to when it was just under 18 percent during the first eight months of last year. From 2007 to 2011 the readmission rates for all-causes hovered around 19 percent.

HHS said that the drop meant there were 150,000 fewer preventable readmissions than in previous years as well as a 9 percent decrease in preventable harms such as falls and infections since 2010. There were 15,000 fewer preventable deaths from hospital-acquired conditions, the report found.

Credit for the decrease in readmissions was given to the Partnership for Patients initiative. This $1 billion safety program was launched in 2011 and hopes to decrease readmissions by 20 percent as well as hospital-acquired conditions by 40 percent by the end of 2014.