MRSA prevention in hospitals might be too costly

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a scourge in hospitals, infecting thousands of patients a year, but a new study suggests that it may be too expensive to treat aggressively.

That's the conclusion of researchers with the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, Infectious Disease News (IDN) reported.

"Prior research has shown that expanded MRSA screening would prevent infections, save lives and reduce costs for the entire healthcare system. Our research confirms that expanded surveillance can save lives but that such a program would be too expensive for an individual hospital to launch," James A. McKinnell, M.D., an infectious disease specialist, told IDN.

The study focused on two types of MRSA prevention programs, both of which were successful in preventing infections. The first involved a general infection control program, which involbed advanced testing techniques and more aggressive sampling of patients. It led to a $103,000 loss for every 10,000 inpatient admissions.

The second program focused on patients considered to be at-risk for contracting MRSA. That led to a nearly $369,000 loss for every 10,000 patient admissions. Other more specific programs cost even more money.

The data contradict a prior study suggesting that MRSA screening could save as much as $500 per patient. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report also concluded that MRSA-related patient mortality has dropped significantly, Becker's Infection Control reported.

Despite the data, MRSA infection rates in hospitals have dropped dramatically in recent years, although rates of the disease acquired in communities have not changed.

The primary reason for the financial losses is the fact that hospitals are not reimbursed for infection control. "The fundamental problem is that all of the costs of infection prevention are carried by hospitals, but all of the benefits go to insurance companies," McKinnell said.

To learn more:
- read the Infectious Disease News article 
- check out the Becker's Infection Control article