Infection prevention for ICU patients extends lives, saves hospitals thousands

Elderly intensive care unit (ICU) patients who develop an infection during their stay are 35 percent more likely to die within five years of leaving the hospital, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

Two of the most common hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI) and ventilator-associated pneumonia. While 57 percent of all elderly ICU patients died within five years of discharge, a full 75 percent of CLABSI patients and 77 percent of ventilator-associated pneumonia patients died in the same period. Researchers, led by Andrew W. Dick, Ph.D., a senior economist at the RAND Corporation, analyzed outcomes for more than 17,500 elderly Medicare patients admitted to 31 hospitals in 2002, then assessed long-term outcomes and costs based on the next five years of Medicare claims data.

Dick and his team found that effective CLABSI prevention programs extended all ICU patients' lives an average of 15.55 years, while ventilator-associated pneumonia prevention initiatives added an average of 10.84 years of life. These ICU infection-prevention programs cost an average of about $145,00, and reduced ICU costs $174,713 per patient for CLABSI and $163,090 for ventilator-associated pneumonia. "This evidence points definitively to the value of investing in infection prevention," Dick said in a statement.

"Any death from preventable infections is one too many," added senior author Patricia Stone , Ph.D., R.N., director of the Center for Health Policy at Columbia University School of Nursing. "We've known for decades what works to prevent infections and save lives. Now, our study shows just how much money can be saved by investing in prevention."

Last year, hospitals in several states faced steep penalties for failing to prevent HAIs, with 31 Southern Florida hospitals and nearly five dozen Texas facilities penalized under the Hospital-Acquired Condition program, FierceHealthFinance previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the study abstract
- read the statement (.pdf)