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Report: MD and VA hospitals vary on infections

Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2007

Analysis: Hospitals in Maryland, Virginia vary greatly in giving antibiotics to prevent hospital-acquired infections

(Washington, DC) – A new Consumers Union analysis of Medicare data on how Maryland and Virginia hospitals compare in giving surgical patients antibiotics to prevent deadly hospital-acquired infections found a disturbing difference among hospitals on providing the preventative drugs to patients – for example, the worst Virginia hospital gave preventative antibiotics prior to surgery to only 24 percent of surgical patients, while the best rate at a Virginia hospital was 97 percent.
This disparity among hospitals reinforces the need for all hospitals in the nation to publicly report their infection rates so consumers can make informed health-care choices. Both Maryland and Virginia legislatures have passed laws supported by Consumers Union to reveal the infection rates of their hospitals, but no public reports have been issued to date. The data on providing preventative antibiotics is included in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services new “Hospital Compare” website.
“Unfortunately, the only data available right now tells consumers how well a hospital tries to prevent an infection by appropriately providing surgery patients with antibiotics,” said Bill Vaughan, senior health policy analyst with Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports. “What consumers really need is to know is how many patients get an infection in each hospital.”
The analysis can be found on the Learn More page of www.StopHospitalInfections.org or see:
Consumers Union is advocating for state and national laws (HR 1174 – the Healthy Hospitals Act of 2007) to require all hospitals make public their infection rates to inform consumers, as well as provide incentives for hospitals to do more to prevent infections. Nineteen states now require public reporting of hospital infection rates.
The analysis of Medicare patient-care data for Virginia and Maryland found that numerous hospitals in both states exceeded the national average when it came to providing preventative antibiotics one hour before incision.
But the analysis found that there were major differences among hospitals in each state on dispensing the drugs. The hospital with the ‘best’ rate in Maryland gave the medication to
97 percent of surgical patients, while the hospital with the ‘worst’ rate gave the drugs to only 65 percent of patients – a 32 percent difference.
The difference among Virginia hospitals was more dramatic. The ‘best’ rated hospital in that state gave the drugs to 97 percent of patients, while the ‘worst’ rate was only 24 percent – a 73 percent difference.
“With this kind of range of care within a state, it is clearly worthwhile for a consumer to determine how their hospital ranks in providing preventative antibiotics,” Vaughan said. The Department of Health and Human Services “Hospital Compare” website is http://www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov
The CU analysis also found similar disparities among hospitals on the two other quality-of-care measures that round out the proven infection prevention practices for surgical patients: dispensing the appropriate antibiotics, as well as stopping them 24 hours after surgery to help avoid reactions or complications from the drugs.
“The fact that hospitals in the same state have dramatically different procedures to prevent deadly infections underscores the need to make public each hospital’s infection rate in this country,” Vaughan said. “A hospital may do well on dispensing of antibiotics, but they may have a poor handwashing and gown-changing policy that results in higher rates of infections.”
Each year an estimated 2 million people develop a hospital-acquired infection, and almost 100,000 die. More information about the issue can be found at: http://www.consumersunion.org/campaigns/stophospitalinfections/learn.html
Bill Vaughan, (202) 462-6262 or Lisa McGiffert: 512-477-4431, ext 115