The Value of an Infectious Diseases SpecialistPosted on by
Guest Author – Steven Schmitt, MD, FIDSA
Chair of the Infectious Diseases Society America’s Clinical Affairs Committee and infectious diseases physician at Cleveland Clinic
We’re all well aware that infection is a major problem among hospitalized patients, sometimes arriving with infection as a reason for admission and sometimes developing infection in the hospital. In either case, infection is among the top causes of death in the hospital and hospital-acquired infections affect one in 20 patients. Many of these infections are resistant to antibiotics, making them extremely difficult to treat. So what is the answer? Get patients the type of care they deserve – in this case, treatment provided by physicians who are experts in infectious diseases. A recent study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases– based on Medicare data from nearly 130,000 hospitalized patient cases – provides strong evidence that infectious diseases expertise is invaluable.
To quantify the value of ID physicians, we studied the records of patients who had at least one of 11 common types of infections, including Clostridium difficile, which the CDC recently named as one of the top three urgent threats in its landmark antibiotic resistance report. Other infections included: bacteremia, central line associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI), bacterial endocarditis, HIV/opportunistic infections, meningitis, osteomyelitis, prosthetic joint infections, septic arthritis, septic shock and vascular device infections. Matching patient characteristics, we compared the outcomes of those who had seen an ID physician and those who had not.
The results were striking. The study showed hospitalized patients who see an infectious diseases (ID) specialist are not only less likely to die in the hospital and after discharge, but stay for shorter periods and are less likely to be readmitted to the hospital. Those benefits are even more pronounced when ID specialists consult with patients within two days of admission to the hospital. Consulting early with an ID specialist saves money, too: Medicare payments were less with early ID involvement.
All of these findings are in line with the goals of healthcare reform efforts, demonstrating that ID specialist care can improve patient outcomes while lowering costs. Healthcare-acquired infections are linked to payment penalties and bundled payments, leaving little room for error. This means the impact of ID physicians is more critical than ever to ensure high quality patient care. We are the detectives of the medical world and have additional years of training and experience to quickly identify and treat life-threatening infections. Let us help your patients and control healthcare costs by putting our expertise to work for you.