Expert: End of hospital infections possible
Hospital infections kill more than 90,000 Americans a year and cost taxpayers and insurers about $45 billion, federal officials have reported.
That can change, said Dr. Keith Kanel, chief medical officer at Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative, a nonprofit that seeks to improve health care practices.
With training and close adherence to protocols and checklists, he said, hospitals can stop infections.
“I think we're going to see continued progress at eliminating hospital-acquired infections, and there's no question the goal is getting to zero,” Kanel said.
Curbing infections can mean big money for hospitals and equipment manufacturers. Each catheter-related infection costs between $3,700 and $29,000, according to PRHI estimates.
In Pennsylvania, hospitals charged more than $1.25 billion in 2009 to treat patients readmitted for complications or infections that might have been avoided, the Tribune-Review's “Code Green: Bleeding Dollars” investigation found.
Patients across the state were readmitted to the hospital more than 62,000 times in 2010 because of complications or infections, according to the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council. The cases represent 5.6 percent of hospital stays.
Solutions can be simple. Something as easy as mandated hand-washing can make a difference, Kanel said. A four-year PRHI study found that bloodstream infection rates fell by 68 percent when measures were implemented and followed.
And the results have been sustained.
“This was HUGE,” Kanel wrote in an email.
As incentive, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in 2008 stopped paying hospitals for some types of readmissions that might have been prevented, such as catheter-associated infections. Private health insurers typically adopt federal payment practices.
Researchers wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine in October that they could find no evidence that the change in payment policy had an effect. But hospital officials — including those with UPMC and West Penn Allegheny Health System — said they take seriously the issue of reducing infections.
Into that environment, Flexicath, an Israeli company with North American headquarters in South Park, has introduced a catheter designed to prevent patients from being infected with airborne and touch-borne pathogens.
The company has grown to a dozen employees since 2010 and started distribution in the East and Midwest, said James “Chip” Hanlon, chief operating officer.
“The neatest thing is when we sell our product,” Hanlon said. “What we find is that the clinicians typically understand the advantages.”
Andrew Conte is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7835 or email@example.com.
Add Andrew Conte to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- UPMC earnings turn positive, but pressures mount
- Barnes & Noble, Samsung offer co-branded tablet
- EDMC to cut costs, roll out new grant
- Target cuts annual profit outlook
- Worker satisfaction with job security at a new high
- Berkshire socked with $896K penalty
- Energy sector powers Pa. pace
- Discretionary purchases take off as consumer confidence shows strength
- Obama weighs broader move on immigration solutions
- Stocks shake off Fed’s talk of stepping up interest rate hike
- Sales, profit fall at retailer American Eagle Outfitters