Disclosure of hospital infections still in its infancy

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.

On Forbes.com, Gergana Koleva evaluated the woeful state of national hospital-associated infection reporting, with the help of recently published research. As Koleva writes, such infections account for more than 8,000 deaths each year in the United States and add an estimated $10 billion in annual cost, and hospitals routinely collect valuable data on such things for internal use, yet no clear reporting standards exist on a national level.

The report … shows that only 21 states currently have legislation that requires monitoring and public reporting for surgical site infections. Of those, only eight states actually make the data publicly available, and only a total of 10 procedures – out of 250 possible types of surgeries – get reported.

And even many those states that reported some surgical infection rates as of late 2010 (Colorado, Massachussetts, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, and Vermont)

failed to require disclosure of rates related to key procedures such as spinal fusion and colon surgery. Fortunately, Koleva writes, there is cause for some guarded optimism, as CMS will soon begin incentivizing infection rate disclosure in certain cases.

In a sign that things may be changing for the better, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently announced that starting in 2014, the agency will reimburse at higher rates hospitals that participate in its pay-for-reporting program. The two types of surgical site infections on which data will initially be collected are colon surgery and abdominal hysterectomy. Participating hospitals will submit the information to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s healthcare quality surveillance system, National Healthcare Safety Network, which will then be passed along to the Department of Health and Human Services’ HospitalCompare database, where consumers can look up the information.

Journalists can get Hospital Compare data from AHCJ. The Excel files we’ve compiled are designed to allow you to compare more than three hospitals at a time – unlike the Hospital Compare look-up tool – using spreadsheet or database software to filter, sort and use other analysis tools with precision.

If you’re at Health Journalism 2012 this week, don’t miss the panel “Are your local hospitals targeting health care-acquired conditions?” for more about how to report on this topic in your area.

2 thoughts on “Disclosure of hospital infections still in its infancy

  1. Howard

    It definitely should be mandatory for every facility to let their infection rates be publicly know. Potential patients need to be able to make a choice, and know what they’re getting themselves into.

  2. Darla Stuart

    Our daughter had a hospital caused surgery infection. However, the surgeon’s called it a deep wound injury. Hard to get an accurate account of the real number if the medical community is allowed to use different verbiage to misrepresent.

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