Thursday, March 8, 2007
Growing concerns over the incidence of life threatening and costly hospital infections have prompted 16 states to adopt laws in recent years requiring some level of public reporting on patient infections. Now lawmakers in another 14 states are working to shine the spotlight on hospital infections by adopting similar public reporting requirements.
“For too long, hospitals have kept patient infections a dirty secret,” said Lisa McGiffert, Director of Consumers Union’s Stop Hospital Infections Campaign (www.StopHospitalInfections.org). “But now more states are moving to make infection rates public so consumers can make smarter healthcare choices and hospitals have a stronger incentive to improve patient care.”
The CDC estimates that one in 20 patients — or approximately two million every year — develop various kinds of infections while being treated in the hospital. Of those, approximately 90,000 patients die every year. The actual number of infections that occur annually is unknown because hospitals in most states are not required to report them.
Infections drive up healthcare costs because they can prolong hospitals stays and result in additional surgeries and other costly treatments. The CDC estimates that hospital infections add about $6 billion to the nation’s healthcare bill. Furthermore, a February 2007 report by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) highlighted “a recent study of 1.69 million admissions from 77 hospitals [which] found that patients with a healthcare-acquired infection reduced overall net inpatient margins by $286 million or $5,018 per infected patient.” For the full APIC report, see: http://www.apic.org/Content/NavigationMenu/PracticeGuidance/Reports/hai_whitepaper.pdf
Over the past three years, 16 states around the country have adopted laws requiring some level of public reporting on patient infections. Fourteen of these states will reveal infection rates for each hospital. So far, Florida, Missouri, and Pennsylvania have produced public reports on their state hospitals’ infection rates.
Pennsylvania has produced the most extensive reports to date based on data submitted by its hospitals. In November 2006, the state revealed that hospitals identified 19,154 patient infections during 2005 and detailed infection rates for each of the state’s 168 hospitals. The mortality rate for patients with a hospital acquired infection was 12.9 percent compared to 2.3 percent for patients without infections. Patients with infections stayed in the hospital 16 more days, on average, than patients without infections. On average, insurers paid nearly $46,000 more for patients with infections than for patients without infections.
More information on the reports produced by Florida, Missouri, and Pennsylvania can be found at: http://www.consumersunion.org/campaigns/stophospitalinfections/learn.html
“Too many lives have been lost and countless patients have suffered needlessly because hospital infection control practices too often fall short,” said McGiffert. “Infections don’t just happen because patients are real sick. Most infections could be prevented if hospitals did a better job following proven methods to keep patients safe.”
Research has shown that hospitals could reduce infections greatly if proper infection control practices were followed at all times. But many hospitals fail to do so. According to the National Quality Forum, studies show that hand washing compliance rates in hospitals are generally less than 50 percent. A recent national initiative aimed at reducing hospital-acquired infections and medical errors has demonstrated that using effective prevention practices can produce dramatic results. For more information on how some hospitals have reduced some of the most common infections, see: http://www.ihi.org/IHI/Results/SuccessHeadlines
Hospital infection reporting requirements have been adopted in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, New York, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Vermont. California and Rhode Island require public reporting on infection information, but not rates. For more information on these state laws, see: http://www.consumersunion.org/campaigns/learn_more_background/003544indiv.html
So far this year, hospital infection reporting bills are being considered in Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia. Hospital infection reporting bills are expected to be introduced soon in Massachusetts and North Carolina. For more information on the bills introduced so far, see: http://www.consumersunion.org/campaigns/learn_more_background/004257indiv.html
“The debate over public disclosure of infection rates has already begun to stimulate increased interest by hospitals to prevent infections,” said McGiffert. “In the long run, making infection rates public will improve patient care and save money and lives.”
Lisa McGiffert: 512-477-4431, ext 115
Michael McCauley: 415-431-6747, ext 126