Multidisciplinary approach drives down C. diff infections, associated deaths

Thanks to a multi-disciplinary risk assessment process, 719-bed Rhode Island Hospital saw hospital-onset Clostridium difficile (C. diff) drop 70 percent while deaths associated with the hospital-acquired infection fell 64 percent, Lifespan announced yesterday.

The multi-disciplinary process involved developing and implementing a C. diff infection control plan; monitoring additional data sets; improving C. diff toxin detection to reduce false-negative results; and enhancing environmental cleaning of patient rooms and equipment.

Hospital-wide participation was integral to Rhode Island Hospital's infection-prevention success. Hospital administration, the epidemiology department, infection control, nursing, medicine, surgery, pathology, pharmacy, environmental services and the microbiology lab all worked together.

"It is truly a multi-disciplinary effort to make the hospital safer for our patients, their families and our staff." Leonard Mermel, D.O., medical director of the department of epidemiology and infection control at Rhode Island Hospital said in the announcement.

Mermel noted hospital-acquired C. diff not only presents enormous risks to patients, but also excess costs to hospitals. In fact, the yearly national excess hospital cost associated with hospital-onset C. diff exceeds $1.3 billion nationwide, according to Lifespan's research announcement.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found about 82 percent of C. diff cases in healthy people occurred after visiting healthcare settings, according to research published this week in JAMA Internal Medicine.

After interviewing 984 infected people in eight states from 2009 through mid-2011, researchers found most people reported visiting doctors' or dentists' offices or having been in a hospital for less than a day. The researchers said study participants could have been exposed via direct contact with contaminated surfaces or from healthcare providers prescribing antibiotics that weaken the body's defense against C. diff bacteria.

To learn more:
- here's the Lifespan announcement
- read the JAMA study