hospital initiative to cut infection rates sees great success

Hospitals across the United States have seen a startling uptick in the number of patients contracting incredibly serious, and often deadly, infections over the last decade. In fact, statistics show that these hospital-acquired infections — which carry names like Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Clostridium difficile (C. diff) and Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) — affect roughly 1.7 million Americans a year and cost up to $45 billion annually.

The unfortunate reality of all this is that the majority of these hospital-acquired infection cases could likely be avoided altogether if hospital staff had chosen to implement basic infection-control strategies and sterilization procedures.

The good news, however, is that some hospitals appear to be catching on and are now actively taking steps to keep patients safe.

Consider a recently completed three-year campaign by Patient Safety First — a coalition made up of California hospitals and health care groups — to cut both the rates and costs of hospital-acquired infections.

Recently released figures show that this three-year effort, which involved 180 hospitals, helped save over $60 million and, more significantly, prevented over 3,500 patient deaths. Breaking the numbers down further, the hospitals reported the following declines in hospital-acquired infections:

  • 57 percent decline in ventilator-associated pneumonia
  • 24 percent decline in catheter-associated urinary tract infections
  • 43 percent decline in central line bloodstream infections
  • 26 percent decline in sepsis-related mortality

How exactly was all this accomplished?

Remarkably, participants in the Patient Safety First initiative were able to achieve these figures by implementing a few simple infection control strategies, including hand washing and brushing patients’ teeth to sterilizing equipment and cutting out unnecessary procedures.

Here’s hoping that hospitals across the nation, particularly those here in Pennsylvania, learn from this effort, and actively take steps to keep facilities clean and patients safe.

Source: Fierce Healthcare, “Peer-to-peer learning helps hospitals cut HAI rates, save millions in healthcare costs,” Julie Bird, August 8, 2013

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