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More Americans acquiring medical infections

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Washington D.C.—A new Consumer Reports poll finds that 18 percent of Americans say they or an immediate family member have acquired a dangerous infection following a medical procedure and more than one-third report that medical errors are common in everyday medical procedures. The new poll, which assessed people’s experiences with the healthcare system, also found that only half of adults participate in routine preventive medical testing.
“Healthcare-acquired infections and medical errors can devastate American families who are already struggling with the cost of healthcare,” said Consumers Union President Jim Guest. “These preventable errors and infections can cost families hundreds—if not thousands—of extra dollars each year, and add tens of billions of dollars to our national healthcare costs. It is imperative that Congress pass healthcare reform legislation that includes simple safety provisions to help save lives and fix our broken healthcare system.”
The new poll was released in conjunction with a Congressional briefing on healthcare delivery system reform with the American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association. The poll was performed March 12-16, 2009, and interviewed more than 2,000 adults on issues such as acquired infections, medical errors, and preventive care.
Healthcare Acquired Infections:
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that almost 100,000 people die each year from an infection they contract while in the hospital. Data from the new poll shows that the risks of medical infections continue to be very real.
• Nearly one-in-five (18%) reported that they or an immediate family member had acquired an infection owing to a hospital stay or other medical procedure. More than 6 out of 10 reporting an infection told Consumer Reports the infection was severe or life-threatening.
• The risk of an infection increased 45 percent if a patient spent the night in the hospital.
• Fifty-three percent of Americans polled said these infections required additional out of pocket expenses to treat the infection.
• Sixty-nine percent had to be admitted to a hospital or extend their stay because of the infection.
Errors in Diagnostic Testing and Treatment:
Many Americans told Consumer Reports they regularly encounter errors in routine medical procedures like lab work, CAT scans or blood testing.
• More than one-third of Americans polled believe it was very common or somewhat common for an error to occur during a diagnostic procedure.
• Thirteen percent have had their medical records lost or misplaced.
• Twelve percent have had a diagnostic test that was not done properly.
• Nine percent have been given the wrong medicine by a pharmacist when they filled their doctor’s prescription
Early Detection Testing:
Early detection testing is the key to fighting many common illnesses. The new poll highlights the number of adults who have not been screened for common diseases.
• While 94 percent of consumers felt it was important to have routine tests for diseases, only 59 percent have discussed testing with their doctors and only 55 percent have actually undergone tests.
• This behavior increased sharply with age: Among those 65 years and older, 73 percent have visited their doctor for routine testing, but among adults 35 years and younger, that percentage drops to 30 percent.
“The findings of this poll clearly show that we need to make fundamental improvements in the quality of care that is delivered to American families,” said Jim Guest. “Consumers are paying to fix bureaucratic errors and medical harm that can easily be avoided. We need to make sure more Americans have access to basic public information on hospitals quality of care and disclosure of infection rates and medical errors.”
About the poll:
The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a telephone survey of a nationally representative probability sample of telephone households. A total of 2,005 interviews were completed among adults ages 18+. The margin of error is +/- 2.2% points at a 95% confidence level.

Media Contact:
David Butler, 202-462-6262, ext. 1116