Big-name hospitals often fail to prevent C. diff infections

Some of the most well-known hospitals in the nation rank among the worst in preventing deadly Clostridium difficile infections, according to a new Consumer Reports analysis. 

The publication analyzed C. diff infections at hospitals across the country, based on data reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between 2014 and 2015. It found well-known teaching hospitals like the Cleveland Clinic, Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles had the lowest or second-lowest ranking, indicators that these hospitals fall short against the national benchmark to control such infections.

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

The report analyzed data from more than 3,100 U.S. hospitals and found that more than a third received a low score for C. diff infection control.

Only two large teaching hospitals, Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Florida and Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, earned top marks from Consumer Reports on controlling C. diff

Many of these hospitals acknowledge that C. diff infections are a widespread problem, according to the report, especially as the CDC estimates that 94 percent of cases occur in hospitals. C. diff infections increase patient length of stay by more than 55 percent and may increase the cost of their care by 40 percent or more. More worrying, 500,000 patients are infected annually and 29,000 patients die each year from the drug-resistant superbug, so researchers are focused on finding potential treatments.

Part of the problem may be that fatigued clinicians skip washing their hands between patients, or may just lose track of time and forget, according to the publication.

Consumer Reports offers two solutions for hospitals to cut down on the infection risk: make sure staff follow hand-hygiene protocols and establish antibiotic stewardship programs.