State's hospital infection rates rise despite patient safety initiative

Despite the fact that 64 of its hospitals were involved in a patient-safety initiative, Tennessee facilities still recorded the highest rate of blood infections through central lines in the nation.

The Tennessee Report on Healthcare Association Infections, recently released by the state, showed that infection numbers were the highest among patients in pediatric intensive care units and teaching hospitals' trauma units, with more than three infections per 1,000 central line days. In only one category--medical ICU--did the state have lower infections than the national average. Eight other categories showed Tennessee's rates above the nation.

"It was a sobering report when we looked at how Tennessee compared with the rest of the nation," said Julie Morath, Vanderbilt University Medical Center's quality and patient safety officer. "We have an obligation and some heavy lifting to do, but you can't improve on that which you are not aware."

Healthcare-associated infections, including those from central lines, are one of the top 10 leading causes of deaths in the United States. There are more than 1.7 million infections each year, with 99,000 people dying from dying from them, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The cost associated for such infections is between $35 billion and $45 billion annually.

The Tennessee report, based on 2008 data, focuses on central-line association bloodstream infections (CLABSI). For that year, Tennessee recorded 20 percent higher CLABSI rates in comparison to the National Healthcare Safety Network data provided for 2006-07.

The 64 hospitals that were members of the Tennessee Hospital Association Patient Safety Center program fared better than those that were not. Hospitals that were not part of the education campaign had infection rates 40 percent higher than the national average.

To learn more:
- read this state report
- read this Associated Press article
- check out this article in the Tennessean