Teaching hospitals hit the wall on C. diff prevention

Antibiotic-resistant infections such as Clostridium difficile have been called the "health crisis of this generation," but teaching hospitals have made little progress preventing C. diff's spread, according to an investigation from Consumer Reports.  

In 2014, C. diff infected 101,074 patients, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, while annually, it infects about 450,000 people a year inside and outside hospitals, killing about 29,000.

Consumer Reports' newest update to its hospital ratings indicates lackluster efforts to reduce the spread of the infection. Of more than 3,200 hospitals nationwide, about 1 in 3 scored a low rating on combating C. diff, indicating rates worse than the national benchmark. A separate Consumer Reports update last summer found only 6 percent of 3,000 hospitals scored well on preventing C. diff and methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Many of these low-scoring hospitals are among the nation's largest and most prestigious teaching hospitals, including the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and New York City's Mount Sinai Hospital. Of the 28 percent of hospitals earning one of the top two prevention scores, only four of them were teaching hospitals: Houston's Harris Health System, Brooklyn's Maimonedes Medical Center, New York City's Mount Sinai St. Luke's-Mount Sinai West and Portland's Maine Medical Center.

"Teaching hospitals are supposed to be places where we identify the best practices and put them to work, but even they seem to be struggling against this infection," said Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumer Reports' Safe Patient Project.

Multiple factors complicate efforts to reduce C. diff, according to Consumer Reports. For example, antibiotic misuse continues to harm hospital outcomes because, used inappropriately, such drugs often kill beneficial bacteria and allow the harmful kind to spread, according to the article. Poor hand hygiene, an ongoing issue in healthcare, also contributed to the spread of such infections, according to the article.

To learn more:
- read the article
- check out the ratings