The battle against nosocomial infections

January 9, 2008

Despite calls for improvement and the threat of state regulation, hospitals are still struggling to prevent hospital-acquired infections. A recent report from the employer-backed Leapfrog Group found that only 13% of the 1,256 hospitals surveyed followed all of its recommended guidelines in five categories to eliminate these infections. Hospitals came up short in five areas: aspiration and ventilator associated pneumonia; central venous catheter related bloodstream infections; surgical site infection; vaccinating staff against flu; and hand hygiene.

Despite calls for improvement and the threat of state regulation, hospitals are still struggling to prevent hospital-acquired infections. A recent report from the employer-backed Leapfrog Group found that only 13% of the 1,256 hospitals surveyed followed all of its recommended guidelines in five categories to eliminate these infections. Hospitals came up short in five areas: aspiration and ventilator associated pneumonia; central venous catheter related bloodstream infections; surgical site infection; vaccinating staff against flu; and hand hygiene.

“It’s very scary, looking at these numbers, to be a patient entering the hospital,” Leapfrog’s Chief Executive Officer Suzanne Delbanco told Modern Healthcare (9/17/2007).

Preventing avoidable infections is not as easy as it sounds. Hospitals feel compelled to meet all the expectations of several different organizations-not only the Leapfrog Group-that offer quality policies and guidelines, and the variations may hinder attempts to improve infection rates. Moreover, while these different groups point out what hospitals need to improve, few offer strategies for preventing avoidable infections.

Still, the push to reduce nosocomial infections is hard to ignore. States are looking to pass legislation that would require hospitals to report infection rates. And the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently issued a final rule, under the inpatient prospective payment system for fiscal 2008, denying hospital Medicare payments for additional costs to treat patients who acquire a condition, such as an infection, during their hospital stay.