KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

HHS 2009 Quality Report Shows Increase In Hospital-Acquired Infections

The Associated Press: "The Health and Human Services department's 2009 quality report to Congress found 'very little progress' on eliminating hospital-acquired infections and called for 'urgent attention' to address the shortcomings - first brought to light a decade ago." Specifically, the report found that, for three out of the five major types of serious hospital-related infections, the rate of illness increased. For one type, the rate showed no progress and for the fifth type it declined. "As many as 98,000 people a year die from medical errors, and preventable infections -- along with medication mixups -- are a significant part of the problem." The AP reports that these figures were a disappointment because it has been more than 10 years since the Institute of Medicine began an effort to raise awareness and work toward eliminating such medical errors. The report was "accompanied by a second study that found continuing shortfalls in quality of care for minorities and low-income people, particularly the uninsured" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 4/13).

NPR's The Two-Way News Blog: "For years, hospitals have made it a top goal to reduce the rate of what are called nosocomial or hospital-acquired infections. They have infection control programs, and officials and committees. ... Still, the results are significantly less than experts have hoped for, according to the latest data from the Health and Human Services Department. According to a report by the Health and Human Services Department's Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, hospital-acquired infections were up in a range of areas last year" (James, 4/13).

The New York Times: "Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, called the trend troubling but said the new health care law would 'help turn these numbers around.' Under the law, hospitals with high rates of infections will be penalized by the government starting in the 2015 fiscal year." The other study released pointed to disparities in health care access among those who have insurance and those who do not. "For instance, 74 percent of women ages 40 to 64 who had insurance had received a mammogram in the previous two years, compared with 38 percent of those without insurance. Children were twice as likely to have had a dental exam in the past year if they were insured" (Sack, 4/13).

Business Week: The second study also looked at racial health disparities, finding "that blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and American Indian patients were less likely than whites to receive preventive antibiotics before surgery in a timely manner." The results led the director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Carolyn M. Clancy, to say, "Despite promising improvements in a few areas of health care, we are not achieving the more substantial strides that are needed to address persistent gaps in quality and access" (Preidt, 4/13).

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