Simple practices can prevent infections in hospitals


New York residents who are headed to the hospital may be interested to learn that about 5 percent of all patients hospitalized in the U.S. acquire an infection in the hospital. It costs the healthcare system billions of dollars a year. Infections at the site of surgery and ventilator-associated pneumonia are among the most frequent infections, each amounting to about a third of the 441,000 hospital acquired infections that occur each year in the nation. Next were bloodstream infections caused by tubes delivering fluids, amounting to about 19 percent of all infections. Infection with Clostridium difficile, a bacterium that causes severe diarrhea, was the culprit in 15 percent of all the hospital-acquired infections.

Bloodstream infections were the most expensive to cure, costing about $45,000 each time they occurred. Pneumonia cost the health care system about $40,000 per case. It takes about $11,000 to cure a C. difficile infection. All told, infections acquired in hospitals cost a total of about $10 billion each year. Previous estimates came in at $20-40 billion, leading some researchers to believe that progress is being made in the right direction.

About 70 percent of central line bloodstream infections and ventilator-associated pneumonia could be prevented if hospital staffs would simply follow the best practices. These are the most expensive infections to cure. Half of all surgical site infections could be prevented just by cleaning the patient’s skin properly and checking his or her antibiotics dosage.

These statistics, all from the Centers for Disease Control, do not mention if these infections acquired by patients in hospitals are life threatening or how many patients have died as a result. Some cases in New York involve medical negligence. An attorney may be able to investigate the case if someone feels that a loved one has suffered due to medical malpractice. An attorney could consult with medical experts, determine fault and seek fair compensation.

Source: Reuters, “Hospital infections cost U.S. $10 billion a year“, Anne Harding, September 12, 2013

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