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Momentum building in favor of hospital infection rate disclosure

May 5, 2004

Momentum starting to build in favor of hospital infection rate disclosure
Florida and Missouri close to making infection information public

AUSTIN, TX – Momentum is starting to swing in key states around the country in favor of requiring hospitals to publicly disclose their infection rates and the methods they use to keep hospital-acquired infections in check. Hospital acquired infections are a leading cause of death in the United States.
According to the federal government, approximately 2 million people fall victim to hospital-acquired infections each year, and about 90,000 of them die from the infection. That’s more than auto accidents and homicides combined. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the economic impact on our nation’s healthcare system is nearly $5 billion.
While Americans have sufficient information to make informed choices on most goods and services, such information is lacking in the critical area of hospital safety. Although hospitals generally track their infection rates, they are rarely required to release this information to the public.
“Requiring disclosure of infection rates puts pressure on hospitals to reduce the risk of infection, many of which are easily preventable,” says Lisa McGiffert, campaign manager for www.StopHospitalInfections.org, a project of Consumers Union. “When hospitals compete on the quality of their care — such as their efforts to reduce hospital infections — we all win.”
Unusual working partnerships have emerged in moving the issue nationally: consumers and businesses, Democrats and Republicans, and even some hospital groups that have traditionally resisted disclosure are now working together in some states to push legislation to inform people about the infection rates at their local hospitals.

  • Florida – A bill now on its way to Governor Jeb Bush would allow patients to get price estimates from different hospitals before their elective surgeries, learn the success rate of various medical procedures and obtain information about hospital infection rates in a more understandable form. Health plans, employers and consumers — including Consumers Union — all pushed for the bill.
  • Missouri –The Missouri House and Senate have given final passage to hospital infection reporting legislation, and the bill is now headed to the governor’s desk for signing. The Missouri Hospital Association supported the bills, which were initiated by a physician-legislator and consumers with family members affected by hospital-acquired infections who contacted Consumers Union for assistance.
  • California – A bill requiring infection rate reporting and disclosure has been approved by the California Senate Health Committee and is now in the Appropriations Committee, where Consumers Union is working to keep the costs of implementing a disclosure law at a minimum.
  • Pennsylvania – Based on existing authority to collect hospital quality of care information, a state agency in March approved a plan requiring hospitals to report on hospital-acquired infections with the intent of making them available to the public in the near future. Hospitals challenged the scope of reporting initially proposed forced the first phase of data collection to be scaled back. The Pennsylvania Healthcare Cost Containment Council has begun to collect the data, but it is not yet available to the public.
  • Illinois – In 2003, Illinois became the first state to pass a specific law requiring that hospitals make their record on hospital infections public. The Department of Public Health is now working to implement that law. The Illinois law was supported by the Service Employees International Union representing healthcare workers, the Illinois Hospital Association, consumers, employers and health plans.

At the national level, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is sponsoring five public meetings on hospital quality issues. These forums aim to refine and standardize the kind of data hospitals collect and voluntarily report to the federal government about patient quality of care to make hospital performance information more accessible to the public. Click here for information about the meetings in Boston, Orlando, Dallas, San Francisco, and Chicago.
Consumers Union has urged CMS officials to include hospital infection rate information from all the nation’s hospitals and make this information available to the public. Currently, hospitals voluntarily report a set of 10 clinical performance measures for three conditions – heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia – but no reporting on infections patients get during hospital stays is required.
Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, launched a national campaign last fall to call attention to the problem of hospital infections and convince Congress and state legislatures to enact change. Its Web site – www.StopHospitalInfections.org – allows concerned citizens to learn more about hospital-acquired infections, and to write to policymakers to urge them to enact these laws.
For more information contact: Lisa McGiffert (512) 477-4431, ext. 115 or Rafael Ayuso at ext. 114