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Some hospitals getting better at infection prevention

Consumer Reports News: September 12, 2012 10:38 AM

Deadly central-line infections in hospitals are almost entirely preventable, but are far too common. A new report shows that progress in preventing these infections is picking up pace.

Our recent investigation into hospital safety reported that central-line infections kill up to 16,250 patients a year. The new report shows that a safety initiative in 1,100 hospitals nationwide, funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), cut the rate of central-line infections in hospital intensive care units by 40 percent over four years. AHRQ estimates that the improvements in these hospitals prevented more than 2,000 central line infections, saved 500 lives, and cut more than $34 million in health care costs.

The gains were made by using a prevention program that includes a simple checklist of best practices for inserting and maintaining central lines. That program was developed by Peter Pronovost, M.D., senior vice president for patient safety and quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine, and was first tested in Michigan hospitals. One study found that 60 percent of participating hospital ICUs in Michigan eliminated all central-line infections in ICUs for at least a year. And follow-up research shows that those hospitals saw a 10 percent drop in death rates overall. The Michigan initiative was expanded first to 10 states, and now to ICUs nationwide.

"It is gratifying that this method has become such a powerful engine for improving the quality and safety of care nationwide," said Pronovost in a statement. "It is a really simple concept; trust the wisdom of your front-line clinicians." The initiative "shows us that with the right tools and resources, safety problems like these deadly infections can be prevented," said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D, in a statement.

Check out our hospital Ratings to see hospitals in your area fare in reducing central line infections. And see our article "How Safe Is Your Hospital?"

Kevin McCarthy

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