Surgical site infections drop 32% with hospital teamwork

Collaboration among seven major hospitals successfully reduced surgical site infections after colorectal surgery by 32 percent over two and half years, according to data released yesterday by The Joint Commission's Center for Transforming Healthcare.

The hospital teamwork was part of a voluntary national research project to address colorectal SSIs as a serious patient safety problem. The collaborative efforts saved more than $3.7 million by avoiding about 135 infections. Moreover, the average length of stay for hospital patients with colorectal SSI dropped from 15 days to 13 days.

The success stemmed, in part, from the hospitals proactively gathering data on colorectal surgical patients--whether the patient had an infection or not--which allowed them to identify significant risk points, according to a TJC fact sheet.

The hospitals also reduced SSIs by implementing consistently maintaining patients' temperatures at the recommended range for optimal wound healing and infection prevention and by implementing weight-based antibiotic dosing protocols.

Thanks to such interventions, one of the collaborating hospitals, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, saw its rate of post-operative colorectal SSIs fall from 15 percent to less than five percent within six months.

The lower infection rates lead to fewer emergency room visits and readmissions and reduces the need for subsequent operations, Cedars-Sinai said yesterday in a statement.

Illinois' OSF Saint Francis Medical Center attributed its lower infection rates to teamwork among surgeons, nurses, surgical technicians, sterile processing staff, surgical quality improvement data analysts and Six Sigma professionals.

Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins worked with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to implement a comprehensive unit-based safety program (CUSP) and reduced surgical site infections by 33 percent in patients undergoing colorectal procedures, according to a study in the August Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

SSIs represented 22 percent of healthcare-associated infections among hospital patients, with 8 percent of those fatal, TJC noted.

For more:
- read the TJC statement and fact sheet (.pdf)
- here's the Cedars-Sinai announcement