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Colorado considering hospital infection reporting bill

Monday, January 31, 2005
Michael McCauley, Consumers Union: 415-431-6747
Representative Bob McCluskey: 303-866-4569

HB 1128 Would Require Colorado Hospitals to Publicly Disclose Their Infection Rates

DENVER, CO – Each year tens of thousands of Americans die from infections they acquire in the hospital and many others suffer needlessly from infection-related illnesses. Under legislation proposed by Representative Bob McCluskey and Senator Bob Hagedorn, Colorado hospitals would be required to report their infection rates to the state so that consumers could find out whether their local hospital is doing a good job keeping patients safe. HB 1128 was approved by the Colorado House Health and Human Services Committee on January 31.
“Too many Coloradans suffer needlessly from hospital acquired infections,” said Representative Bob McCluskey. “Preventing hospital acquired infections will not only save lives and reduce unnecessary illness, but it will also save healthcare dollars by limiting lengths of stay and readmissions.”
While there is no state specific information about the incidence or cost of hospital-acquired infections in Colorado, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate almost 90,000 Americans die each year from these infections. Another 1.9 million people nationwide who develop such infections endure longer stays in the hospital recovering and getting treated. The national healthcare bill for the approximate five to ten percent of all hospital patients who develop infections is nearly $5 billion.
Studies show that hospitals can reduce infection rates significantly through proper implementation of infection control practices, especially hand washing. Nonetheless, many hospitals have not effectively implemented infection control practices. According to the National Quality Forum, studies have shown that hand washing compliance rates are generally less than 50 percent. Hospital acquired infections may be an indicator of other systemic problems, such as inadequate staffing, poor care coordination, or lack of timely patient assessments.
Many hospitals track their own infection rates, especially in Intensive Care Units or neonatal wards where infections are common or patients are particularly susceptible. But hospitals are not currently required to report infection rates to any regulatory agency in Colorado.
“This bill shines the spotlight on a serious public health problem and provides hospitals with an added incentive to reduce infections, said Lisa McGiffert, Director of Consumers Union’s Stop Hospital Infections Project (www.StopHospitalInfections.org). “Colorado is one of fifteen states across the country considering laws requiring public disclosure of hospital infection rates.”
HB 1128 requires hospitals to collect data on hospital-acquired infection rates for certain clinical procedures and to report it to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment every six months. Under the bill, the department is required to issue an annual report summarizing the data, comparing infection rates for each hospital in the state. The reports will be made available to the public at hospitals and through the department’s website.
Four states – Illinois, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Florida – already require collection and publishing of hospital infection rates. Only Pennsylvania is collecting data from hospitals and the others are developing implementation plans. No state has yet produced a public report.
Consumers Union’s StopHospitalInfections.org project is working to enact public disclosure laws so that consumers can select the safest hospitals and competition among hospitals will force the worst to improve. More information about hospital acquired infections and Consumers Union’s campaign can be found at: www.StopHospitalInfections.org.