Flawed Processes of Care and Hygiene Kill Patients

A report, released by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council, examined 1.6 million patients in 168 hospitals in the state in 2005. For the report, PHC4 grouped hospitals to account for differences in the severity and complexity of their cases and excluded certain patients with conditions that placed them at high risk for infection. State law requires hospitals to report four broad forms of infections: surgical site, urinary tract, pneumonia and blood stream.

According to the report, 19,154 patients acquired infections in 2005.

An average of 12.2 per 1,000 patients acquired infections, and those who acquired infections cost private heath insurers an average of $59,915 for hospital care, compared with $8,311 for those who did not acquire infections, according to the report (USA Today).

The report also found that: Patients who acquired infections spent almost 400,000 additional days in hospitals at an estimated cost of $1 billion or more (Philadelphia Inquirer).

The average cost of hospital care for patients who acquired infections was $185,260, compared with $31,389 for those who did not acquire infections.

The average length of hospital stays for patients who acquired infections was about 23 days, compared with about five days for those who did not acquire infections (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).

2,478 patients who acquired infections died during their hospital stays, although PHC4 did not determine whether the infections caused their deaths; and the mortality rate for patients who acquired infections was 12.9%, compared with 2.3% for those who did not acquire infections (Philadelphia Inquirer).

Marc Volavka, Executive Director of PHC4, said, "This first hospital-specific report demonstrates Pennsylvania's robust commitment to reducing these serious, costly and largely preventable infections" (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). He said that such infections result from "flawed processes" of care and hygiene, not from the treatment of sicker patients (Philadelphia Inquirer).

Roger Mecum, executive vice president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, said, "There are too many infections, which are increasing mortality and hospital lengths of stay while adding billions of dollars in hospital charges." Lisa McGiffert, director of the "Stop Hospital Infections" campaign at Consumers Union, said, "This is really the first report of its kind in the U.S., where hospitals have actually identified infections and reported them to a state agency".

Healthcare quality experts said that the report might prompt additional efforts by hospitals to prevent infections.