Inpatient infection rates are down, but there is still more work to be done. In a report released Friday, the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council said 21,319 of the 1.89 million patients admitted to Pennsylvania hospitals in 2010 acquired an infection. That is a rate of 1.13 percent, down from 1.20 percent the previous year.
Though only a small percentage of hospitalizations, the patients' outcomes were sobering. Infected patients stayed in the hospital three times longer than patients without infections. They also were far more likely to be readmitted up to a month after their hospital stay and were more than five times likely to die than patients without infections.
Readmissions represent both challenges and opportunities for hospitals seeking to improve, according to Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council Executive Director Joe Martin. "Patients with a healthcare-associated infection continue to be readmitted at higher rates than those whose cases were not associated with an infection," he said in a council announcement. "Those readmissions remain an important opportunity for quality improvement and cost control. And with public-sector health programs like Medicaid and Medicare facing serious cost challenges, it behooves us to redouble our efforts to prevent these infections from occurring."
The healthcare-acquired infections detailed in the Pennsylvania report come from four major sources: patients' surgical sites, urinary tract infections, gastrointestinal infections and pneumonia. These infection sites largely correspond with what other studies have found to be the most common.
Other states also have been releasing their own data in recent weeks or will be soon. For example, the Raleigh (N.C.) News-Observer reported that, under a new North Carolina law, state health officials have begun collecting data on infections that patients get while in the hospital and plan to begin making it public this fall.
And earlier this month, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution raised eyebrows when it reported that seven Georgia hospitals, including several prestigious medical centers, scored worse than the national benchmark for cases of potentially deadly bloodstream infections. This article, in which the newspaper based its reporting on recently released CMS data, is typical of a slew from around the country that spotlighted relatively higher infection rates at teaching hospitals.
As the CMS blood infection data show, the trend is clearly toward more transparency. Public reporting of hospital-acquired infections of all kinds is now required in 27 states, and more have laws in the works, according to the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths, a nationwide advocacy group that lobbies for techniques for reducing such infections, according to the News-Observer.