Missouri data disclosure details infection fight

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Missouri law requires hospitals to disclose infection rates for intensive care and certain surgeries. It doesn’t keep that data around for long, but St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Jim Doyle still managed to review data from 2005 to 2009.


Robots sanitize an ICU room by spraying hydrogen peroxide vapor into the air at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center.

He found that while numerous local hospitals lagged behind national infection rates, most were improving. A story that could have been a dire assessment of health care-associated infections instead became (mostly) a profile of local hospitals’ drive to cut down on the transmission of such infections. He doesn’t draw a clean line between the state’s monitoring and increased anti-infection efforts, but it’s tempting to read between the lines.

Doyle’s second installment continues the theme, discussing the aggressive, nonstop effort that is required to contain drug-resistant bacteria. Measures range from checklists to room-enveloping antibacterial vapors.

Missouri’s disclosure laws are an important step toward infection fighting, Doyle found, but their narrow definition allows hospitals some wiggle room and may miss serious systemic issues. Speaking of systemic issues, I highly recommend Doyle’s sidebar on why Missouri infection data is so hard to keep around.

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