Case study: NY hospitals lower ICU infection rates

In recent times, New York City's public hospitals have mounted an effort to lower the rate of infections patients acquire in in their intensive care units. The effort, by the New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., has been a significant success, with ventilator-associated pneumonia falling by 78 percent between 2005 and 2007 and central-line infections by 55 percent. Surgical-site infection rates dropped too. Today, the system now says it has 3.4 central-line infections for every thousand days patients spend with the catheters, as compared with an average rate of 5.3 per thousand suggested by some studies.

To make this turnaround, the system's 11 facilities focused on process "bundles" designed to address infection causes. For example, ventilator patients got vacations from sedatives that can raise infection risks, and their heads were elevated. When treating patients with central lines, hospital staffers were careful to engage in frequent hand-washing, as well as draping the catheter entry point to protect it from other areas of the body which could pass bacteria to the site.

To learn more about this effort:
- read this Wall Street Journal blog item

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