Hospital infection control in the era of superbug outbreaks [Special Report]

By Leslie Small

Long before superbug outbreaks tied to a specialized medical scope sickened and killed patients across the country, infection control has been a major priority for hospitals.

But the need to curb infections has become even more pressing now that the shift from a fee-for-service model to value-based payments has led the federal government to increasingly tie reimbursements to patient outcomes. An industry trend toward transparency also has made it easier for the public to see the danger of a hospital stay.   

One in 25 hospital patients acquires at least one healthcare-associated infection (HAI), according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were an estimated 722,000 HAIs in U.S acute care hospitals in 2011, about 75,000 hospital patients with HAIs died during their hospitalizations, and more than half of all HAIs occurred outside of the intensive care unit.

The problem has gained more attention in recent months, when reports surfaced of patients contracting a particularly lethal antibiotic-resistant superbug, carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), after undergoing procedures that involved a device known as a duodenoscope. A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel concluded this month what hospitals involved in the outbreak already knew--that the ability of CRE and other dangerous pathogens to stay on scopes after cleaning puts patients at a significant risk.

But while the problems posed by such outbreaks are clear, finding solutions to them--particularly in a seldom-static healthcare industry--is anything but. To help chart a way forward, this special report from FierceHealthcare examines advice from experts and hospital leaders who have learned valuable lessons from the front lines of hospital infection control.  

Hospital infection control in the era of superbug outbreaks [Special Report]