CLABSIs at Hospitals Disclosed Nationwide

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The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) is now disclosing for the first time how hospitals across the country compare when it comes to central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs) in intensive care units. CLABSI information for each hospital is posted on the federal Hospital Compare website and will be updated quarterly.  The website will provide information for other hospital-acquired infections in the future.

National hospital infection reporting follows a multi-year campaign by Consumers Union and other consumer advocates to mandate such disclosure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly 100,000 people die each year due to hospital-acquired infections and the hospital costs associated with these infections are estimated to be as high as $45 billion annually.

“Consumer advocates across the nation have worked tirelessly to end the secrecy over hospital infection rates,” says Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project (www.SafePatientProject.org). “This is a milestone for patient safety that begins to make hospitals accountable for the two million patients who are infected each year.  Finally, Americans in all 50 states will be able to find out how well their hospital prevents these particular infections.  Public disclosure drives hospitals to improve care and helps patients choose hospitals with better safety records.”

Consumers Union, the nonprofit advocacy arm of Consumer Reports,  has prepared a set of tips for accessing the CLABSI information on Hospital Compare website.  

Since 2004, Consumers Union has worked with a national network of consumer advocates to enact hospital infection reporting laws and helped pass such requirements in thirty states. The majority of those state laws were based on Consumers Union’s model hospital infection reporting law. Since launching the Safe Patient Project, Consumers Union has heard from thousands of patients harmed by infections who joined the campaign to push for reform.   

Beginning in January 2011, the federal government’s Medicare payment policies have required hospitals to report to the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) when patients develop CLABSIs in intensive care units. The NHSN is the same system used by most of the states with reporting mandates.

The CDC estimated that 18,000 patients developed CLABSI infections in the ICU in 2009. Of those patients who develop bloodstream infections in the hospital, up to one in four die.

The CLABSI infection information disclosed on Hospital Compare are based on only three months of data (January-March 2011) and show how each hospital stacks up against the national benchmark for such infections. But building a longer record over the coming year will provide a better indication of trends at each hospital.

“If your hospital is no different than the national benchmark, that means too many patients are still suffering and dying from infections that could have been prevented with better care,” says McGiffert. “The benchmark for success that hospitals should be striving to reach is zero.”   

Hospitals have started reporting surgical site infection rates to the CDC and that information will be posted on Hospital Compare every quarter beginning in 2013, starting with abdominal hysterectomy and colon surgeries. According to the CDC, surgical site infections account for 20 percent of all hospital acquired infections. In addition, information on the incidence of catheter-associated urinary tract infections will be available on Hospital Compare in 2013.

The new reporting requirements apply to hospitals that participate in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) “pay-for-reporting” program and includes infections occurring in all patients, not just Medicare patients. Virtually all U.S. hospitals, excluding critical access hospitals, participate because they earn a higher Medicare payment for doing so. 

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