Web Zap*Germs Archive

March 29, 2006

Hospital-acquired Infections: The Bottom Line ($)

If you pick up an infection during your hospital stay, expect your bill to be an astonishing 750 percent higher than if you had stayed germ-free. That's what the state of Pennsylvania found in statistics from 2004.

Pennsylvania is the first US state to require hospitals to report on HAI -- hospital-acquired infections. According to a new report by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council, the average hospital payment for a Pennsylvania patient who did not have an infection was $8,078, compared with $60,678 for patients who did.

Richard Shannon, the chief of medicine at Allegheny General Hospital, decided it was possible to lower the infection rate, says WaPo:
By standardizing procedures and investigating every single infection within 24 hours, Allegheny cut the annual number of infections from 49 to three and reduced related deaths from 19 to one. Shannon had similar success in slashing infections related to ventilators from 45 to eight.

"To those that argue that their patients are sicker, I say then all the more reason to perfect your processes, as no critically ill patient gets better with a superimposed hospital-acquired infection," he stated in written testimony prepared for the [US] House [of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Committee] hearing [on the topic].

"We have enough data to know it's possible to be infection-free even in a challenging environment like an intensive care ward," said Paul O'Neill, the former Treasury secretary who has become a leading proponent of health-care reforms. "We shouldn't be accepting this as a necessary phenomenon of getting medical care."
The article also has an interesting chart that shows the various types of procedures/diseases related to patients who were infected in the hospital, plus number of days hospitalized and deaths.

In an earlier post on HAI, I linked to a helpful list of 14 things people can do to help prevent infections when they're in the hospital. What's tip number one?

"Ask that hospital staff clean their hands before treating you. This is the single most important way to protect your health in the hospital."


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