Higher infection rates signal better reporting

Reported infection rates at healthcare organizations are up--but that's not neccessarily bad news. Higher numbers signal better reporting, says Bethany Higgins, executive director of Oregon Patient Safety Commission.

Oregon hospitals voluntarily reported 142 adverse events in 2011, up from 85 in 2007, the Oregonian reported. Adverse events ranged from foreign objects left in surgical patients to wrong-site surgeries to medication errors.

"You can clearly see that there's improvement across the board with the quantity, as well as the quality, of the reports submitted, as well as the timeliness with which they are submitting them," Higgins said, However, she added, "We have a long ways to go."
Even if hospitals reported 500 incidents a year--the commission's target for reports--that would only make up a fraction (0.4 percent) of the errors that the commission estimates actually occurs, the newspaper noted.

In California, even though central line infections are down by 10 percent statewide, UC Davis Medical Center is reporting higher infection rates, according to the California public health department.

UC Davis Medical Center's chief medical officer, Allan Siefkin, says that's because his organization does a better job reporting the numbers than other hospitals.

"We have a very, very rigorous surveillance program, and we actively look out for cases using best practices," Siefkin said in the Sacramento Bee. "Unfortunately, many hospitals up and down the state don't have such a system."

Every year, more than 200,000 patients die by preventable medical mistakes and infections in hospitals, Leapfrog Group president and CEO Leah Binder said in a New York Daily News column last week, referencing the death of a 12-year old patient at NYU Langone Medical Center due to alleged medical errors and misdiagnoses.

Binder said in order for providers to stop medial errors, the healthcare industry must turn a culture of shame into one of accountability.

"Hospitals must … lose their defensiveness--rather than closely guarding safety data that should be available to the public for scrutiny," Binder said.

"But it's not just healthcare institutions themselves that have work to do. Critics need to move beyond the understandable urge to angrily assign blame --and work in good faith to improve care."

For more information:
- see the Sacramento Bee article
- read the Oregonian article
- here's the Leapfrog Group column in the New York Daily News

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