Guest Author — Lisa McGiffert
Director, Consumer’s Union Safe Patient Project
Is your hospital doing a good job protecting patients from developing infections during treatment? For years, patients have been left in the dark about this important indicator of hospital safety even though these infections are associated with nearly 100,000 deaths annually.
Nancy Oliver, of Cincinnati, Ohio, wished she had known more about her hospital’s infection rates. Nancy’s father was expected to make an excellent recovery following heart surgery but ended up developing a MRSA infection in his surgical site. Later he acquired a C-difficile infection, went into septic shock and died. “We miss my Dad every day,” says Oliver who has become an active patient safety advocate.
Next year, consumers across the country finally will be able to start checking their hospital’s infection prevention track record thanks to new regulations adopted as part of the landmark health care reform law.
The regulations build on the successful efforts of patient safety advocates working with Consumers Union over the past seven years to push states to adopt hospital infection reporting laws. Twenty seven states have done so and 19 have issued reports so far that disclose this critical information to the public.
Consumers can already check the Hospital Compare web site to find out how well hospitals follow procedures proven to reduce surgical site infection risks. But soon the public in all 50 states will be able to see whether their hospital’s prevention efforts are working.
The new regulations will make central line associated bloodstream infection rates in intensive care units, including neonatal intensive care units, available on Hospital Compare next year and surgical site infection rates in 2012. That’s a good start but it should be just the beginning.
Patients have a right to know about other hospital-acquired infection rates, including those caused by MRSA and C.difficile, and urinary tract infections. These additional infections are targeted for improvement by a federal healthcare-associated infection action plan. The public should be able to see if the action plan’s prevention targets for these infections are being met.
Armed with infection rate information, consumers will be able to make more informed decisions about where to go for the care they need. And disclosing this information to the public is a powerful motivator for hospitals to improve care and keep patients safe.
For Nancy Oliver and the countless others who have lost loved ones to hospital-acquired infections, making infection rates public is long overdue.