Washington State Hospital Association Releases Hospital-Specific Surgical Infection Rate Data

Today, the Washington State Hospital Association is releasing hospital-specific surgical infection rate data. This is the first time this information has been made public. The website at www.wahospitalquality.org provides data on infections following three important types of surgeries: cardiac, orthopedic, and hysterectomies. The Washington State Legislature required the data to be collected and made public in House Bill 1106 in 2007 and House Bill 2828 in 2010.

"Washington's hospitals are enthusiastic participants in providing this new information about surgical infection rates," says Carol Wagner, vice president for patient safety at the Washington State Hospital Association. "We believe that public reporting helps hospitals improve, assists consumers in making good decisions about hospital care, and creates collaboration between hospitals and quality experts."

The surgeries included in the new infection rate data are:

Heart bypass surgery

Cardiac surgeries on the valves or septum of the heart

Heart transplant surgery

Knee replacement

Hip replacement

Abdominal hysterectomy

Vaginal hysterectomy

The website allows users to sort hospitals by county, alphabetically, and from highest to lowest or lowest to highest infection rates.

Washington's hospitals use a series of scientifically proven safeguards against surgical infections and the new data helps hospitals evaluate the effectiveness of their processes. These processes include:

- Ensuring the proper antibiotic is given at the correct time and stopped at the correct time

- Ensuring the patient's blood sugar is under control

- Removing hair safely (not using a razor) in the surgical area

Washington's hospitals are dedicated to stopping the spread of infections. Stopping infections is challenging work: today's hospital patients are sicker and more vulnerable, drug resistant organisms are increasing, and antibiotic overuse has hampered the ability to fight infections.

Hospital patients are an important part of their own care team and have a role to play in preventing infections. Things patients can do to protect themselves include:

- Taking all the recommended pre-hospitalization infection prevention steps, such as pre-surgical chlorhexidine baths, not shaving before surgery, and stopping smoking

- Asking all healthcare providers and visitors to wash or sanitize their hands, especially when they enter or leave a patient's room;

- Taking antibiotics and other medications exactly as directed by their doctor

- Asking their visitors to stay home if they are sick

"Hospitals are dedicated to the care and comfort of our patients. In most cases, the data show good results, though there are also areas for improvement. Our member hospitals are working hard to implement changes to stop surgical infections, and we expect the results to get better and better," Wagner adds.

Washington State's infection reporting program is considered a national leader. The National Conference of State Legislatures highlighted Washington, along with nine other states, in its recent report, "Lessons from the Pioneers: Reporting Healthcare-Associated Infections." http://www.ncsl.org/documents/health/haireport.pdf

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