Tip Sheets

Hospital infections kill more people than car crashes. Here’s how to cover them better

About 75,000 people a year die from nosocomial infections - infections they contracted while in the hospital. This seems like a high number, but these infections don't get a lot of coverage. It might seem difficult to approach the issue and make the data relevant to your community, but the Columbia Journalism Review has some suggestions on how to cover hospital infections, such as utilizing the National Healthcare Safety Network from the CDC. The CDC uses six categories of Healthcare Associated Infections, or HAIs: 

  • Central-line associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI), which are associated with IV tubes,

  • Catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI),

  • Infections occurring at the site of hysterectomy surgery,

  • Infections occurring at the site of of colon surgery,

  • Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), an antibiotic-resistant staph infection,

  • and Clostridium difficile (C. diff.), which can afflict the intestines after antibiotics kill normal gut flora.

You can use this data to evaluate how regional hospitals compare to each other, what specific problems each one has, and which infections are the most common. Other options useful for drilling down into hospital infection data include Hospital Compare from Medicare.gov and its massive Healthcare Associated Infections - Hospital database.