Editor's Corner

Shortly, Massachusetts may become the second state to ask hospitals to disclose their infection rates, following Pennsylvania's lead. This kind of disclosure isn't comfortable for many hospitals which argue--credibly--that there's no one-size-fits-all way to compare such complexities as patient mixes and differing processes.

In all probability, however, their objections will be heard and overruled. When such non-clinicians as Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell go on the warpath over hospital acquired infections (HAIs), the issue has reached a boiling point. Hospital executives should expect to see virtually every state establish some kind of HAI reporting over the next couple of years. In fact, sixteen states are considering related bills already.

Facing the inevitable, some industry executives are more or less hiding under their desks, daring state executives to force them to disclose such data. But others are beginning voluntary reporting efforts based on their own internal criteria, which makes a lot more sense. After all, if you're going to do highly-public clinical data collection and reporting someday, it never hurts to get some practice.

And they've got time. Sure, hospitals may be forced to meet the state's standards for reporting infection rates eventually, but realistically, that's not going to happen quickly. (After all, even if bills are made law within the next six months, there's typically a phase-in period.) In the mean time, as one blogger suggests, hospitals can begin by picking out a few common types of infections, such as ventilator-associated pneumonia and ICU central-line infections, and just put the numbers out there. Will it be painful? Maybe. But in the long run, it will be worth the effort. - Anne