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For hospital infection rate story, Connecticut journalist cites the good with the bad

Lisa Chedekel
Lisa Chedekel

 

By Joseph Burns

Lisa Chedekel’s article on infection rates in Connecticut could serve as a template for any health care journalist writing about hospital infections.

Her story, “Half of State Hospitals Exceed Infection Rates New Data Show,” is important because hospitals with the worst infection rates in 2012 and 2013 will lose 1 percent of their Medicare reimbursements in fiscal 2015. It’s also important because she names 11 of Connecticut’s 30 hospitals that will likely be penalized.

A senior writer for the non-profit Connecticut Health Investigative Team, Chedekel puts the Connecticut numbers in perspective, reporting that more than 50 percent of hospitals in the Nutmeg State had infection rates in 2012 and 2013 for at least one type of hospital-acquired infection that were worse than the rates cited in federal benchmarks.

“No other state had a higher percentage of its hospitals exceeding the infection standards set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and most states had fewer than 20 percent, according to the data, compiled by Kaiser Health News,” she wrote.

She balances her reporting on failures among 11 hospitals that exceed the national average for urinary tract infections by reporting that all state hospitals meet the benchmarks for central-line bloodstream infections and names six that are doing better than the average.

Chedekel also does a nice job reporting on why infection rates are an important measure of quality. She cites a study showing that hospital-acquired infections cost $9.8 billion a year nationally and explains that the infection-reduction program of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is the third pay-for-performance initiative that CMS has introduced in recent years.