More on Quality and Safety

Virginia, Tennessee hospitals save $1.2M via infection reductions

After implementing a hand washing "action plan," four hospitals in southwestern Virginia and eastern Tennessee reduced healthcare-acquired infection rates (HAIs) a collective 41 percent within 90 days, resulting in savings of $1.2 million in costs.

VHHA Services, a subsidiary of the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, coordinated a study among the four hospitals to determine if adding a persistent hand sanitizing lotion and a persistent surface disinfectant to current practices reduces HAI rates. The products used in the study provided persistent effects that kill germs on hands for four hours and on surfaces for up to 28 days.

[See also: HAIs add millions to health system costs, harm patients.]

Healthcare workers at the four hospitals were instructed to apply sanitizing lotion at the start of their workday and reapply every four hours. They were told to continue washing their hands or using an alcohol sanitizer as recommended in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Hand Hygiene Guidelines. Environmental Services employees were instructed to apply the surface disinfectant to "touch points" only. Rooms were disinfected after patient discharges and common hospital areas were treated monthly.

According to VHHA Services, no capital investment was required by the participating hospitals.

The study ran three months and compared HAI rates during the study to the three months prior to the study period. After the three-month trial period, results showed an average of 41.5 percent fewer infections per 1,000 patient days. The individual hospitals reduced infections 29.4 percent, 32.4 percent, 50 percent and 54.2 percent respectively.

The CDC estimates the average cost of an HAI is $20,549, which results in a cost savings estimate of $1.2 million for the 59 HAIs prevented. The cost to implement both products is less than $15,000 for three months.

"Our Clostridium difficile (C. diff) rates dropped significantly," says Linda Sokos of Danville Regional Medical Center in Danville, Va. "Needless to say, the Infection Control Committee recommended that [sanitizing lotion] be adopted. Nursing leadership concurred and we are in the process of bringing them in-house in all of our patient care areas."

Rebecca Bartles, corporate manager in the infection prevention department at Johnson City Medical Center in Johnson City, Tenn., said her facility observed a 32.4 percent reduction in Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus (VRE), C. diff and multi-drug-resistant gram negative transmission rates during the trial.

"Although healthcare-acquired infections are often caused by multiple factors, this significant reduction indicates that a correlation may exist between these products and reduced environmental contamination," Bartles said. "Additionally, we have observed a sustained decrease in infections at JCMC since the products were implemented in all areas."

The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association is an alliance of hospitals and health delivery systems that develops and advocates healthcare policy in Virginia.