Public Reporting of Healthcare Associated Infections – Part 2 of 2Posted on by
— Lisa McGiffert
Campaign Director for Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project
Consumers lead effort on public reporting of healthcare-associated infections
In 2004, Kerry O’Connell fell off of a ladder while painting his house and cracked his hand’s radial head that required surgery to replace it with a titanium implant. This was the first of eight surgeries – during one he got an antibiotic resistant infection.
There was no way for him to find information about his hospital’s infection rate and even worse, he was “completely astounded” by “the medical community’s reaction when things go wrong. Taking responsibility is out of the question.” At that time, there was generally a cultural acceptance of infections as an occasional outcome of surgery. Today that complacency is changing, and much of the impetus came from public reporting laws.
In 2003, Consumers Union launched our Stop Hospital Infections campaign (now the Safe Patient Project) to push for state laws requiring disclosure of hospital-acquired infection rates. We connected with people in many states, like Kerry in Colorado, and together created a consumer movement to eliminate medical harm. To date, 19 states have issued public hospital infection reports and consumers like Kerry are serving on the state advisory committees that developed them.
Public reporting has changed the health care environment. These consumer-driven state initiatives led to local media coverage with patient stories that put a human face on infection statistics, education about their preventability and a demand for accountability. As a result, many in the health care community reconsidered the inevitability of this deadly problem. Fortunately, numerous efforts to help hospitals learn how to reduce harm were being launched at the same time as the public reporting movement was sweeping the country.
For patients, information about infections is a fundamental indicator of a hospital’s safety and this information allows them to make more informed choices. It can stimulate conversations with their doctors and inform policymakers of the financial and human costs of these preventable injuries.
The reports inform hospitals about how they compare with other hospitals and that can stimulate changes and conversations among doctors, nurses and CEOs. The requirement to actively identify and report infections forces an end to a “don’t ask, don’t tell” mentality that has prevailed for decades. And finally, these reports are catalysts for hospitals to engage in prevention strategies and to share their successes with others in the community.
Consumers now support a national system to reveal infections occurring in every U.S. hospital. Our comments to the federal government on the proposed regulations to do just that should be given strong consideration out of respect for the millions of people who are infected every year in our nation’s hospitals.
- Page last reviewed:July 2, 2010
- Page last updated:July 2, 2010
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