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Hospital Acquired Infection

Fast facts about hospital-acquired infections

Hospital-acquired infections result in significant suffering

  • According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 90,000 Americans die each year from hospital- acquired infections. More people die from hospital-acquired infections than from auto accidents and homicides combined.
  • An additional 1.9 million or so get an infection that does not cause death, but depending on the type of infection, these patients spend from one to 30 extra days in the hospital getting treated. About 5-10% of hospital patients get a hospital-acquired infection.

Hospital-acquired infections contribute to the rising costs of health care

  • Hospital-acquired infections add nearly $5 billion per year to our nation's health care costs. Reducing hospital infections saves health care dollars by reducing lengths of stay and readmissions as well as reducing avoidable deaths and illnesses.
  • Postoperative sepsis, a type of bloodstream infection, causes 10.89 additional days in the hospital and additional charges of $57,727, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Hospitals can prevent hospital-acquired infections

  • Studies show that hospitals can reduce infection rates by up to 70 percent through proper implementation of infection control practices, such as hand washing. Despite these facts, one study found hospitals complied with hand washing guidelines less than 50 percent of the time.
  • A study of neonatal ICU infection found that a campaign of aggressive monitoring and education dropped the infection rate from 42 percent to 12 percent in five years.

Public reporting of health care quality data saves lives

  • A study published in Health Affairs last year on state hospital quality reporting programs concluded that "making performance information public stimulates quality improvement."
  • Four states, Missouri, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Florida, have recently adopted laws requiring hospital infection rate data to be available to the public.

Adapted from Fast Facts by Earl Lui and Lisa McGiffert,, a project of Consumers Union

Lessons from Pennsylvania

Medicare and Medicaid were billed for about 76% of the 11,668 cases of hospital-acquired infections in Pennsylvania hospitals in 2004, with charges totaling nearly $1.4 billion for the government programs, according to a study released on Thursday by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council. (Fahy, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11/17).

PHC4 in July released a study finding that hospital-acquired infections last year accounted for 1,793 deaths and $2 billion in charges in Pennsylvania. PHC4 used billing data and reports from Pennsylvania hospitals to determine the rate of infections (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 7/13).

According to the new report, hospitals billed Medicare an additional $1 billion to treat hospital-acquired infections in 7,870 patients, while Medicaid was billed an additional $371.6 million for infections in 1,028 patients. Commercial insurers were billed an additional $603.8 million for such cases. However, the Philadelphia Inquirer notes that hospitals "collect significantly less from Medicare, Medicaid and insurers than the amount billed for care."

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5 Things to Know

  1. What you need to know in the Hospital
  2. 15 Steps You Can Take To Reduce Your Risk of a Hospital Infection
  3. Selecting Doctors & Hospitals
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  5. AHRQ Director Helps Consumers Navigate the Health Care System in a New Advice Column on the Web

You've Suffered Medical Harm - Now What Do You Do?

According to a recent article published by ProPublica titled: So You’ve Become a Patient Safety Statistic – Now What? by Marshall Allen there are six things to do….

  1. Get a copy of medical records.
  2. Make sure the incident is reported internally.
  3. If the patient has died, order a forensic autopsy.
  4. Consider calling an attorney.
  5. Meet with the doctor and hospital officials.
  6. Report the incident to regulators, who can investigate.

For greater detail and more important information, please read the full article.