KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Medical Staff Cut Down On Hospital-Acquired Infections

CNN reports on Alfonso Torress-Cook and his efforts to eliminate fatal infections at Pacific Hospital of Long Beach, California: "Torress-Cook is part of a growing movement in medicine that no longer accepts hospital-acquired infections as inevitable complications. Every year, such infections sicken 1.7 million and kill 99,000 people in the United States."

CNN reports: "Approximately one out of every 22 patients who checks into a U.S. hospital acquires a bacterial infection, adding more than $28 billion to health care costs, according to a 2009 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But there are signs of improvement. Pennsylvania, which requires the most extensive reporting of hospital-acquired infections, saw the annual rate for all infections drop 8 percent, according to the most recent figures available from the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council. And there are other signs of progress. The development and use of a simple checklist for a common procedure that threads a so-called central line to supply medicine directly to the bloodstream has been extraordinarily effective. ... The checklist is now being adopted in all 50 states and three countries: the United Kingdom, Spain and Peru, says checklist designer Dr. Peter Pronovost, from Johns Hopkins Hospitals. At hospitals large and small, raising the head of the bed for patients on ventilators, brushing patients' teeth and taking other precautions have dramatically reduced ventilator-associated pneumonia, another common and costly infection. ... Simply requiring hospitals to report their infections has forced them to be more accountable to their patients, says Lisa McGiffert, who heads Consumers Union's Stop. Twenty-six states now have laws requiring hospitals to report rates for urinary tract and other infections.

CNN also notes new financial incentives to cut infections: "As of Oct. 1, 2008, Medicare no longer pays hospitals for the added costs incurred by patients who develop catheter-related urinary tract infections and other catheter- or surgery-related infections" (Martin, 7/9).

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