Hospitals save $9.1B by reducing infections

The years-long quality improvement initiative organized by the hospital purchasing organization Premier has posted some big numbers: The more than 300 hospitals participating claimed to have saved billions by avoiding additional patient infections and mishaps.

Since the QUEST initiative launched in 2008, hospitals saved as many as 92,000 lives and avoided $9.1 billion in additional costs. Overall, participating hospitals have costs 14 percent below the national average, according to findings released today.

The study attributes success to hospitals sharing data and best practices to improve care.

The initiative focused specifically on reducing incidents of hospital-acquired sepsis, the devastating blood infection that leads to major organ failure and death in about half of all cases. Participating hospitals reduced mortality rates from sepsis by 23 percent, saving about 6,800 lives per year, according to the study.

Some hospitals, such as UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco, are employing their own initiatives to prevent sepsis. By using sophisticated electronic mannequins that mimic symptoms, the medical center helps staff catch incidents of sepsis early, according to UCSF News.

However, efforts to cut other hospital-acquired infections, such as C. difficile, have presented a bigger challenge to hospitals.

QUEST hospitals also cut harm to patients from central-line blood stream infections, which dropped by 59 percent; urinary tract infections, which fell by 19 percent; and falls and pressure ulcers, which declined by 64 percent.

Partly as a result, participating hospitals reduced the mean cost per patient discharge by $1,110, although that was attributed more to labor cost reductions and workflow process improvements than combating hospital-acquired conditions.

Moreover, the hospitals have seen their costs remain flat for the past three quarters. By comparison, data from America's Health Insurance Plans indicated that the cost for inpatient care across the United States rose 8.2 percent between 2008 and 2010, The Hill's Healthwatch reported.

To learn more:
- read the Premier statement and study (.pdf)
- read the Hill's Healthwatch article
- here's the UCSF News article