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JAMA research on hospital infections and injuries

October 7, 2003

JAMA research on hospital infections and injuries
points to need for strong state disclosure laws

Senate bill could preempt states’ gains on access to hospital safety data

WASHINGTON, D.C. — New research in The Journal of the American Medical Association released October 7 concludes that “medical injuries in hospitals pose a significant threat to patients and incur substantial costs to society.” Hospital-acquired infections top the list in both costs and additional days of hospitalization required.
Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, believes that making hospital safety and quality-of-care information public is essential in giving hospitals an incentive to improve. The organization is warning of legislation in Congress that could preempt the ability of states to publicly report hospital patient and quality of care data. The medical errors bill, H.R. 663, has already passed the House, and its Senate companion, S. 720, has cleared the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. The Senate bill could come to the Senate floor shortly.
“These bills could set back state disclosure laws by keeping all types of patient safety data hidden from public view,” said Lisa McGiffert, campaign manager for www.StopHospitalInfections.org, a project of Consumers Union. “They define ‘patient safety data’ so broadly that the definition could inadvertently cover hospital infection rates and outcome measures on specific medical procedures. It could undermine great progress made in a number of states to make public hospital infection rates and other important quality of care information.”
According to the JAMA article, which is based on data from 20 percent of U.S. hospitals:
 Infections acquired during surgery result in almost 11 additional days of hospital care — at an extra cost of $57,727 — as well as an increased risk of death of 22 percent.
 Patients who get an infection as a result of medical care in hospitals spend almost 10 more days in the hospital, incur $38,656 in excess charges and have an increased risk of dying of 4.3 percent.
Consumers Union’s new web site — www.StopHospitalInfections.org — is designed to mobilize and educate the public on the danger of hospital-acquired infections, including contacting members of Congress. Hospital infections are the sixth leading cause of deaths in the U.S, claiming approximately 90,000 lives per year.
For more information contact: Lisa McGiffert (512) 477-4431;
Earl Lui, (415) 431-6747 or Ami Gadhia, (202) 462-6262