More on Quality and Safety

Hospitals losing ground on effectively preventing infections with dramatic drop in those reporting zero infections

Hospital-acquired infections hinder recovery, add costs for patients and hit hospitals' bottom lines for billions, Leapfrog Group says.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

A new report from the Leapfrog Group, which was analyzed by Castlight, shows that the number of hospitals reporting zero acquired infections for the five HAIs measured has dropped significantly since 2015. 

Those five infections, stemming from ICUs and certain wards, included central line-associated bloodstream infections; catheter-associated urinary tract infections; inpatient methicillin-resistant staph infections, also known as MRSA, clostridium difficile infections; and surgical site infections following major colon surgery.

According to Leapfrog, around one out of 25 patients in U.S. hospitals contracts an HAI every day. They can hinder recovery, make hospital stays more expensive and even cause death. Roughly two million American patients acquire an HAI annually and an estimated 90,000 will die. 

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For catheter-associated UTIs, in 2015 14.8 percent reported zero infections but in 2017 only 11.3 percent reported zero infections. For central line-associated bloodstream infections, in 2015, 25 percent of hospitals reported zero infections. In 2017, that number dipped to 12.7 percent. The number of hospitals reporting zero infections for MRSA dipped by more than half as well, from 30.6 percent to 14.6 percent. C-diff infections looked to be the most prolific infections, with 5.2 percent of hospitals reporting zero infections and in 2017, only 2.8 percent.

While the report also offered the good news that the majority of reporting hospitals were doing better than predicted based on 2015 data, the Leapfrog Group report said too many hospitals had infection rates that had doubled or even tripled and were higher than predicted rates. Some HAIs can be reduced by as much as 70 percent using patient safety interventions. Moreover, a single case of an HAI can cost anywhere from just under $1,000 to nearly $50,000, depending on the infection. HAIs cost hospitals between $28 billion and $45 billion every year. 

"These costs are passed along to insurers and employers, as well as to patients themselves in the form of higher out-of-pocket costs," Leapfrog said.

There are basic safety measures hospitals can take to help prevent the spread of infections, and the patient, financial and reputational harm that can come with them. First, make sure clinicians, staff and visitors wash their hands before and after every patient encounter. Also, clinicians and staff should wash their hands after touching bed rails, bedside tables, remote controls, or phones and before eating or touching the eyes, nose, or mouth. Taking quick action if the area around a central line, catheter, or wound is red, swollen, warm, or draining. Make sure patients and caretakers understand how to care for a surgical wound at home before they leave the hospital and encourage patients to keep taking any antibiotics as prescribed, not stopping before the course is complete.

Twitter: @BethJSanborn
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