VHA Initiative Enables Hospitals to Save Millions While Reducing MRSA Infection Rate

VHA Inc., a national healthcare network, announces the results of a regional initiative focused on reducing the incidence of healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs), specifically methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections.

In late 2007, VHA hospitals in the Central Atlantic region established an aggressive goal to reduce the incidence of MRSA infections within three years. By working with VHA, the 54 hospitals (see list) in the initiative reduced their collective MRSA infection rate by 44 percent by the end of 2010 and prevented $35.4 million in additional treatment costs over the course of the initiative.

"Our members' MRSA infection reduction initiative is clearly working," says Terri Bowersox, FACHE, director of clinical performance improvement at VHA's Central Atlantic office in Charlotte, N.C. "Multiple components are helping hospitals achieve success, including hospital CEO/leadership involvement, working with the participating hospitals to implement a culture of safety, monthly data collection and monitoring, best practice sharing, and customized coaching by VHA clinical improvement consultants."

While the average reduction in MRSA infections was 44 percent across all the hospitals, several achieved reductions greater than 70 percent compared to their baseline period. For example, CarolinaEast Health System, New Bern, N.C., experienced a 76 percent reduction in hospital-acquired MRSA infections.

"Our health system was able to achieve an 84 percent reduction in our MRSA infections," says Wanda Lamm, RN, BSN, CIC, infection prevention coordinator at Nash Health Care Systems in Rocky Mount, N.C. "Our CEO's endorsement and support of this program has made it clear that this is an important initiative for our organization in order to improve the quality of patient care and also eliminate the additional costs of treating these infections."

"This project has been a great example of the power of collaboration," says Larry Chewning, president and CEO of Nash Health Care Systems. "We have a great team here that got even better by working with VHA and the other participating hospitals across several states to share best practices and other tips to accelerate our improvement."

To achieve success in addressing infections within their organizations, the VHA member hospitals adapted leading practice strategies from VHA's Leading Practice Blueprints including those that addressed MRSA reduction, urinary tract infections, surgical infections, bloodstream infections and ventilator-associated pneumonia, and accessed other improvement resources that were available via VHA's Leading Practices Portal.

There were several areas that all of the hospitals focused on, but one key focus was improving handwashing. The hospitals reinforced the requirement that all those who come in contact with patients, which include hospital staff, physicians and visitors, must wash their hands before entering the rooms, and follow a "wash-in" and "wash-out" approach to infection prevention. All of the hospitals participating in this collaborative undertook an organization-wide effort to establish very high hand hygiene compliance rates.

Other areas of focus included improving isolation policies and environmental cleaning procedures, conducting MRSA screening upon ICU admission and in other high-risk admission areas and requiring protective equipment be worn whenever entering an infected patient's room.