Peer-to-peer learning helps hospitals cut HAI rates, save millions in healthcare costs

A concentrated effort to eliminate hospital-acquired infections saved 3,576 lives and an estimated $64 million in healthcare costs, according to a report from the National Health Foundation.

About 1.7 million Americans develop hospital-acquired infections annually, according to the Alliance for Aging Research, costing up to $45 billion.

Approximiately 180 California hospitals participated in the three-year first phase of the Patient Safety First initiative, working with regional peer-to-peer learning networks, according to the report. The results: 

  • The rate for ventilator-associated pneumonia fell 57 percent, from 2.21 per 1,000 ventilator days in 2009 to 0.94 in 2012. The goal was zero infections.
  • Catheter-associated urinary tract infections fell 24 percent, from 1.19 per 1,000 patient days in 2009 to 0.90 in 2012. The goal was zero infections.
  • The rate of central line bloodstream infections fell 43 percent, from 2.24 per 1,000 central line days in 2009 to 1.27 in 2012. The goal was zero. (The report notes the reduction is statistically insignificant.)
  • The sepsis mortality rate declined from 22.58 per 100 sepsis cases in 2009 to 16.62 in 2012, 87% of the way toward the goal of a 30% reduction.
  • Perinatal gestational age deliveries under 39 weeks declined from 9.94 percent of all deliveries in 2010 to 2.57 percent in 2012, reaching the goal of 5% or less. 

California Healthline reported that providers worked together to develop infection-reduction strategies, including more frequent brushing of patients' teeth to reduce bacteria, better documentation, following procedural checklists, sterilizing equipment and eliminating unnecessary procedures.

Based on the results, Patient Safety First continues with funding from Anthem Blue Cross, the report notes.

New initiatives beginning this year include addressing Clostridium difficile infections and surgical safety, primarily eliminating cases where surgical sponges and towels are left inside patients.

The ongoing effort will apply lessons learned, including that data fatigue among hospital staffers makes it difficult for hospitals to obtain complete data, according to the report. Initiative leaders also noted that Patient Safety First might not have been the only reason hospitals succeeded in reducing infection rates.

For more:
- download the report (.pdf)
- read the California Healthline account