The Centers for Disease Control estimates one out of every twenty patients winds up with an infection when they get treated in a hospital. Those infections can be serious and even fatal. For the first time, North Carolina has published hospital-acquired infection rates for most of the acute-care hospitals in the state.
The idea behind publishing these rates is that infections are preventable. A patient shouldn’t get an infection from undergoing surgery or having an IV treatment, if the proper precautions are taken.
“When you look at this in terms of diseases and leading causes of death, it’s right up there in the top ten. And yet, it’s been pretty much a hidden problem for many, many years,” says Lisa McGiffert, the director of the Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project.
The group has pushed states to publish these infection rates. McGiffert says North Carolina is one of 31 states requiring this. The federal government already provides a lot of the information online. It started doing that last year. McGiffert says hospitals are paying attention.
“No hospital wants to see themselves compared to others poorly. So it’s been an incredibly powerful tool to improve the safety of hospitals around the country, because it motivates hospitals to do better,” says McGiffert.
The state report breaks down infections into three categories: infections from what’s called a central line (think an IV), those associated with urinary catheters and ones that develop around the surgical site.
The rate at Presbyterian Hospital Charlotte was below the rate expected in two of those areas, but was above when it came to colon surgeries. Stephen Wallenhaupt, Chief Medical Officer for Novant Health which operates Presbyterian, says the hospital is working on getting that down.
“In the case of the colon surgery, we’ve already made some changes and it’s very likely to go down substantially, as we continue to improve the things we’re doing to try to avoid those infections,” says Wallenhaupt.
Novant Health has published its hospital-acquired infection rates at its website for the past three years.
Carolinas Medical Center’s main hospital had an infection rate right about expected in two of those areas, but higher when it came to urinary catheter associated infections.