Massachusetts hospital infection rates drop

Several hospitals in Massachusetts have reported significant decreases in hospital-acquired infections due to new procedures and staff attitudes about the inevitability of infection, according to a report by the Boston Globe.  Several academic medical centers in Boston said the number of ICU patients contracting bloodstream infections had dropped by at least half in the past several years because of new procedures to keep intravenous lines and other tubes cleaner. Hospitals also said they have reduced the number of patients on respirators who develop pneumonia.

According to the article, Massachusetts public health officials, consumer groups, and patient safety organizations said they were cautiously optimistic about hospitals’ reports that infection rates are falling, but noted that they have not verified most of the data, and that it’s hard to sustain such improvements.  Also, not all types of infections have shown declines, nor have all hospitals adopted stringent infection-control measures. And even hospitals making concerted efforts to reduce infections still experience outbreaks.

National studies estimate 90,000 patients a year die from infections they contract while in hospitals or other medical facilities, and thousands of others require follow-up operations or treatment with intravenous antibiotics for weeks - which can cost the health care system $50,000 to $100,000 per case.

Massachusetts health department plans to begin publicly releasing certain hospital infection rates in March.

(SOURCE: The Boston Globe, http://boston.com, accessed November 24, 2009)