Hospital-acquired infections rack up $9.8B a year

Hospital-acquired infections (HAI) cost $9.8 billion per year, with surgical site infections alone accounting for one-third of those costs, followed closely by ventilator-associated pneumonia at 31.6 percent, according to research published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

While surgical site infection accounts for 33.7 percent of the total annual cost of HAI treatment, central line-associated bloodstream infections are the most expensive type of HAI, costing an average of $45,814 per patient, researchers found. Rounding out the top five most expensive HAIs are ventilator-associated pneumonia at $40,144, surgical site infections at $20,785, Clostridium difficile infections at $11,285, and catheter-associated urinary tract infections at $896.

"Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) account for a large proportion of the harms caused by healthcare and are associated with high costs," the authors note. "Better evaluation of the costs of these infections could help providers and payers to justify investing in prevention."

The researchers used the National Healthcare Safety Network to estimate annual incidences of HAIs and reviewed 37 years' worth of published medical literature, the American Medical Association noted in a research announcement.

"While quality improvement initiatives have decreased HAI incidence and costs, much more remains to be done," the authors concluded. "As hospitals realize savings from prevention of these complications under payment reforms, they may be more likely to invest in such strategies."

In one such strategy implemented in California, regional peer-to-peer learning networks targeting infection-reduction practices saved 3,576 lives and an estimated $64 million in healthcare costs, according to a new report released in August from the National Health Foundation. Among the results, the rate for ventilator-associated pneumonia fell 57 percent in three years, central line bloodstream infections fell 43 percent and catheter-associated urinary tract infections fell 24 percent, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

For more information:
- read the study abstract
- here's the AMA announcement
- check out the National Health Foundation report (.pdf)