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Undercount of CA hospital infection cases highlights flaws in reports

Contra Costa Times, August 27, 2012

When California health officials recently announced a 10 percent annual drop in hospital central line infections, they did not mention that they had found flaws in the facilities' reporting of one of the most serious infections that patients can suffer while hospitalized. In fact, the state's own fact-checking of records from one-fourth of hospitals statewide had uncovered a series of errors, including an overall 38 percent undercount of central line infections. In response, state officials asked hospitals to correct the data. How can states accurately count infections that occur in thousands of U.S. hospitals amid a tangle of differing definitions, counting techniques and plain human error?