HHS Issues Statement on Recent Study of Infection Control Practices in ASCs


Health and Human Services Department (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made the following statement: "Today, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which underscored the urgency behind the Obama Administration's efforts to reduce healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs).

“The study found that among a sample of ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs) in three states, two-thirds had infection control lapses identified during routine inspections.  This is concerning, because when lapses in infection control occur, in any healthcare setting, it puts patients at risk.

“The good news is that we have seen progress in the reduction of HAIs in the hospital setting.  Just last month, a new report from CDC demonstrated progress made in reducing HAIs in hospitals, further indicating that the steps we're taking to reduce these often preventable infections are working.  The report showed an 18-percent decrease in national central-line associated bloodstream infection incidence in hospitalized patients.

“Ensuring the safety of all patients in all healthcare settings is a top priority for HHS.  That's why I announced last year that $50 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to help states fight HAIs.  Of that funding, $10 million went to states to improve the process and increase the frequency of inspections for ambulatory surgical centers. 

“In addition, the Affordable Care Act calls for improvements in healthcare quality and HAIs.  Research shows that when healthcare facilities identify where and when infections are likely to occur and take concrete steps to prevent them, some infection rates have dropped more than 70 percent in hospitals.

“We also continue to strengthen our collaborative efforts to achieve the goals in the HHS Action Plan to Prevent Healthcare-Associated Infections (http://www.hhs.gov/ophs/initiatives/hai/).  In 2010, HHS will expand its Action Plan to include strategies to eliminate HAIs in ambulatory surgical centers and hemodialysis centers.

“HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is contributing to the reduction of infections in ASCs by investing in research projects to better understand the factors that lead to HAIs in ambulatory surgical settings.  HHS agencies are also working together to incorporate infection control into the inspection process.  CMS has committed to inspecting one-third of all ASCs nationwide this year.  All ASCs have a responsibility to correct deficient practices.  Failing to correct serious deficiencies will mean the risk of termination from the Medicare program. 

“Just because procedures are being performed outside the hospital doesn't mean patient safety standards and attention to infection control do not need to be met.  All healthcare providers and suppliers should take this as an opportunity to evaluate their current infection control policies, and more importantly, make sure their staff understand and follow them."

To view the infection control audit tool currently used by CMS to better assess infection control practices in ambulatory surgical centers, visit: http://www.cms.gov/manuals/downloads/som107_exhibit_351.pdf


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