Deadly infections still too common in U.S. hospitals

Consumer Reports News: February 13, 2013 03:48 PM

The number of potentially deadly infections picked up by patients in hospitals is down slightly, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But your risk still depends on which hospital you go to, since the rate of infections varies widely, with some hospitals reporting none of them and others reporting many. That's a trend we've also seen in our own hospital Ratings, and it underscores the importance of choosing your hospital with care.

The new CDC report focuses on three kinds of infections: central-line bloodstream infections in certain intensive-care units, infections following several kinds of surgery, and urinary-tract infections that stem from catheters. The CDC estimates that nearly 100,000 people die each year from those and other hospital-acquired infections, and together they cost the U.S. health care system as much as $45 billion annually.

Between 2008 and 2011, hospitals overall reduced all three infections, by 41 percent for central-line infections, 17 percent for surgical-site infections, and 7 percent for urinary-tract infections. Even more encouraging, at least 10 percent of hospitals in each of those categories reported zero infections.

"A small percentage of hospitals have been able to attain zero infections, showing that it can be done," says Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumer Union's Safe Patient Project. "Unfortunately, most hospitals have not shown statistically significant improvement since five years ago."

Use our hospital Ratings to see how well hospitals in your community perform in preventing infections and other key measures of hospital safety and performance.

Our hospital Ratings show similar trends. For example, we have information on central-line infections for 2,013 hospitals. Nearly a quarter of them (464) earned our highest Rating, reporting no central-line infections. On the other hand, 13 percent got our second-lowest Rating and 4 percent our lowest Rating, reporting infection Rates more than three times higher than the national average.

For details, see our report How Safe Is Your Hospital? as well our Hospital Survival Guide for tips on staying safe in the hospital.


2011 National and State Healthcare-associated Infections Standardized Infection Ratio Report [CDC]

Joel Keehn

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