Conn. tackles hospital-acquired infections

A new Connecticut law requires that all hospitals report infection rates by 2008. In the United States, hospital-acquired infections and other medical mistakes account for 98,000 deaths annually and increases healthcare costs by $4.5 billion. It's an important step, because hospitals rarely report infection rates on their own. Last year the Connecticut Hospital Association revealed only three infections statewide, yet the CDC estimates that at least 21,000 of the state's patients pick up an illness while at the hospital. Currently several states require reporting, including New York, Florida and Pennsylvania, but most still do not.

Lowell Levin, an emeritus professor who works for the World Health Organization, was an early proponent of such measures. His 1985 book Medicine on Trial raised public awareness of hospital infections. "If we're going to attack these complications effectively we have to work on several fronts--management of personnel, including doctors and nurses, but first, the public has to be aware there's a problem. There's a need for public oversight, like this new law," Levin remarked to HealthCare Connecticut Online. He's in favor of infection reporting because it allows patients to choose the safest hospital, but it also drives overall infections down as hospitals compete to keep their facilities safe in the public eye. Under the new legislation, state infection rates will be reported annually, though Levin would like to eventually see them reported monthly.

- to learn more about Connecticut's new law, check out this article