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Consumer Reports Assesses Central Line Infections in Hospitals

Posted Jun 11 2010 6:00am
Some of you may know that Consumer Reports (CR) is also in the health care rating business. I know them best from their work involving nursing homes. Their latest data release has to do with central line infections in hospitals, of which 1.7 million occur each year in U.S. hospitals.

They are bloodstream infections introduced through the large intravenous catheters that deliver medication, nutrition, and fluids to patients in intensive care. These infections account for 15 percent of all hospital infections but are responsible for at least 30 percent of the 99,000 annual hospital–infection–related deaths, according to CR.

So take a look at the findings.

I am always nervous about publications like CR being in the health care rating business. There are certainly enough players. And all this data confuses the public at best. And I am not sure what the end game is - is it to shame hospitals into getting better? Is it to make them more transparent in their reporting? (many states do not require reporting central-line infections and the CR list is incomplete for sure); Is it to sway the public on where to go for their hospital care?

But you can't ignore the ratings once published. It has to be out there. And this is a particularly vexing issue because infections can be greatly curtailed just through simple hygiene. As CR states "
the steps require equipment no more complex than hand soap, an antiseptic solution, and sterile drapes and garb. Other key components: giving nurses the authority to make doctors follow all the steps, and measuring and reporting infection rates."

So consumers facing surgery may want to pay attention to these ratings and question your physician about them. If your physician has multiple admitting privileges and one hospital's infection rates are lower than another's it may be worth considering where you have surgery.

And remember the skill of your physician, specialist, surgeon is just one thing to consider. The hospital where they practice needs to be considered as well. Hospitals report out many metrics that can give the consumer an idea of what is taking place inside an institution. Health care is not about one particular procedure. It is about the entire experience.


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