Friday, August 17, 2007

Hospital Infections: A Perfect Storm

Many people -- too many -- get an unpleasant surprise when they are hospitalized: They end up worse off than when they were admitted because they get an infection during treatment.
About 100,000 patients die from these infections each year and they cost hundreds of millions of dollars to treat, often because of catheters that are implanted for days or weeks at a time, but we really don’t know the exact number or the offending hospitals because they are notoriously secretive about their infection rates.
Until recently, there has been little incentive to make this information public and, most importantly, to put the hospital staffs on notice that they need to do better to prevent the spread of germs.

Well, a big incentive has now lumbered onto the scene in the form of a directive from Medicare, which beginning next year will no longer pay extra to treat certain hospital-borne infections.

Says Lisa McGiffert, who directs a campaign to stop hospital infections run by Consumers Union:

"We think this is groundbreaking that Medicare now says, 'We're not going to pay you extra when you've done something to harm a patient.' "
And David Knowlton, chairman of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, a nonprofit organization to improve patient safety:
"I hope this makes a huge difference. We have had a perverse system that said, 'If you screw up, you can bill to get more money.' "
More here.

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