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Hospital infection report shows staggering costs to consumers

Embargoed For Release:
Wednesday, July 13th, 2005

First-Ever State Report On Hospital Acquired Infections Shows Staggering Costs in Lives and Dollars

$2 Billion in Healthcare Costs, over 11,600 Patients Affected By Infections in Pennsylvania in 2004

Philadelphia, Pa – A groundbreaking report released by the Pennsylvania Healthcare Cost Containment Council (PHC4) shows that Pennsylvania hospitals reported more than 11,600 patients got infections in 2004 while seeking medical care. These infections—often the result of inadequate sanitary practices or failure to use effective prevention procedures—led to the death of 1,793 patients in the state.
PHC4’s report is the first in the nation to use hospital-specific data to publicize the number of hospital acquired infections and their impact on patients. The independent agency was created by the Pennsylvania Legislature in the 1980s, and gathers and analyzes data from the healthcare industry in Pennsylvania.
“Until now, we could only guess how many patients suffered from hospital acquired infections in Pennsylvania or any other state,” said Beth McConnell, director of the Pennsylvania Public Interest Research Group Education Fund (PennPIRG Education Fund). “Now for the first time in the U.S., PHC4 has published concrete data collected from hospitals that tell us how widespread hospital acquired infections are in Pennsylvania. By shining the spotlight on this serious patient safety issue, we hope this report will help lead to improved infection control practices in Pennsylvania and beyond.”
Consumer groups pointed out that the extent of the hospital infection problem in Pennsylvania is no doubt worse than what has been documented by PHC4 in their report. The agency has acknowledged that a number of hospitals failed to disclose sufficient information about their safety records. PHC4 specifically pointed out that sixteen hospitals—including several large facilities—reported no infections, while just 29 hospitals reported more than half of the infections. In addition, while hospitals reported a total of 11,668 infections they billed insurers for 115,631 patient-related infections during the same time period, according to PHC4. “This demonstrates that while some hospitals are making a good faith effort to comply with the reporting rules, there are still many hospitals that haven’t done due diligence,” said McConnell.
“While this first report does not offer a complete picture for all hospitals in the state, it reveals unacceptable costs in lives and dollars to healthcare consumers,” said Betsy Imholz, Director of the West Coast Regional Office of Consumers Union. “PHC4 should use every enforcement tool at its disposal, including conducting audits, to make sure all hospitals are complying with this important patient safety law.”
Current Pennsylvania law requires that hospitals report to PHC4 each quarter the number of patients who acquired four types of infections at their facilities. Those hospital-specific reports are then to be released to the public, so patients, policy makers and hospitals themselves will know which facilities are doing a good job monitoring and preventing infections, and which need to improve. But in this first year of data collection, many hospitals have failed to submit adequate reports to the agency, preventing PHC4 from issuing hospital-specific reports. Today’s report aggregates the information from hospitals statewide. Even with underreporting, PHC4 estimates that hospitals incurred an extra $2 billion for 205,000 extra days of hospitalization.
“Other states are watching Pennsylvania closely to see how it implements the state’s hospital infection reporting rules,” said Imholz. “We expect that the Pennsylvania experience will influence how other states address this issue and carry out their own hospital infection reporting laws.”
Pennsylvania is the first state in the nation to collect hospital-specific infection reports. Other states have adopted similar laws in 2005, such as Virginia, Nebraska, Nevada, and most recently New York late last month. Florida, Illinois and Missouri currently have similar laws in the process of being implemented. Thirty other states have considered or are currently considering similar legislation. Not all pending proposals or adopted state laws include public release of hospital-specific information. For more information on specific state proposals, visit http://www.consumersunion.org/campaigns/CHART_SHI.pdf
PennPIRG Education Fund and Consumers Union will continue to monitor PHC4’s enforcement of and hospitals’ compliance with the reporting rules, and educate healthcare consumers about the problem.
Beth McConnell, PennPIRG, 215-732-3747
Betsy Imholz, Consumers Union, 415-431-6747