CMS penalties work in boosting infection control

Hitting hospitals in their pocket books is an effective method to trying to stop infections, according to an American Journal of Infection Control study, published yesterday. Eighty-one percent of more than 300 surveyed acute care hospitals said Medicare penalties directly resulted in increased anti-infection efforts, according to the research announcement.

In 2008, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services ended additional reimbursement to hospitals for certain healthcare-associated infections (HAI). Although the Medicare nonpayments didn't significiantly affect funding to infection prevention departments, infection preventionists did report an increased focus, particularly on stopping catheter-associated urinary tract infections, in which front-line staff removed urinary (71 percent) and central venous catheters (50 percent) more quickly than before. They also reported ramped up efforts against central line-associated bloodstream infections, in which 56 percent said staff increased use of antiseptic-containing dressings for central venous catheters.

The CMS policy, however, had some unintended consequences. One-third of infection preventionists said their hospitals shifted resources away from nontargeted infections to focus on the targeted infections. They also said hospitals were concentrating on physician documentation and coding practices to avoid penalties over enhancing infection prevention for improved outcomes.

"As CMS expands the list of complications for which it will adjust payment and continues to modify its requirements for reporting, it is critical to ensure that policy changes lead to measureable improvements in patient outcomes while minimizing potential unintended consequences," the study authors stated.

Researchers also noted it's unclear whether the greater engagement in infection control produces better patient outcomes.

For more information:
- check out the full study
- here's the announcement

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