In the past three decades, more and more patients enter hospitals only to get sicker. The seriously ill are acquiring serious infections through the tubes they are connected to or through bedsores. This happens some two million times a year. Studies have shown that patients with hospital-acquired infections:
- spend many more days in the hospital
- undergo more extensive procedures
- are more likely to die
One out of five times hospital infections are fatal. And even if they don’t kill you, they drive up costs for everybody. Different studies have proposed different solutions:
- One survey says the solution is simple: nurses and doctors need to wash their hands more. And hospitals – and maybe the patients or their families themselves – need to insist on it.
- Another study found that frequent hand washing and the use of alcohol-based hand gels to kill germs is not enough.
- A different survey found inadequate staffing and fiscal constraints to be the biggest obstacles hospitals face in preventing infection.
- A fourth has proposed “bundling” – a series of specific preventive steps that vary based on treatment.
Pennsylvania was the first state to collect data on infections acquired by hospital patients. Now a US Representative from that state has introduced a bill that would force hospitals to disclose their infection rates to a federal agency that would publish the information on a website available to the public. Hopefully this public scrutiny will help push hospitals to clean up their act, literally. If not for the sake of public health, then at least to help their bottom line.
An April 21 newspaper article details how two California hospitals have begun to wage a successful war against infection:
BAY AREA HOSPITAL COLLABORATION REDUCES HOSPITAL-ACQUIRED INFECTIONS
by Chris Rauber
East Bay Business Times