The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released the first of a series of state-specific reports on healthcare-associated infections, creating an important baseline from which to assess states' infection-prevention programs going forward.
Although the first report, focused on central-line associated bloodstream infections, brought encouraging news that such infections appear to be down a good 18 percent during the first half of 2009 vs. the previous three years, medical experts say there is perhaps greater victory in just capturing the data in the first place.
"When we started [Consumers Union's Safe Patient Project, which lobbies states to pass laws requiring public reporting of in-hospital infections], we thought hospitals knew their infection rates and were keeping them secret," Lisa McGiffert, a campaign manager for the program, told WebMD. "But they were not tracking them at all. If you are not aware of something, you can't stop it. Where hospitals have been forced to face this and count it, it has created a sea change."
Indeed, it has been estimated that there are approximately 1.7 million health care-associated infections in hospitals alone each year, resulting in 100,000 lives lost and an additional $30 billion in healthcare costs, Dr. Don Wright, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Healthcare Quality in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said during a teleconference Thursday.
Bloodstream infections, in particular, are almost completely preventable, researchers noted. "We believe this decrease represents broader implementation of CDC guidelines and improved practices at the local level," said Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, the associate director for Healthcare-Associated Infection Prevention Programs in CDC's Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion. "The bottom line of this reduction is that we believe care in hospitals is getting safer, but we know there is more work to be done."