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Healthcare-Associated Infection Costs Detailed

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, September 3, 2013

Surgical site infections are the most frequently occurring HAI, accounting for one-third of the annual cost or about $3.3 billion. But central line-associated bloodstream infections are the most expensive, researchers report.

Hospital leaders can claim some success in preventing healthcare-associated infections in the past few years, but more than 440,000 adult patients still get these serious adverse events annually, at a cost to the healthcare system of between $9.8 billion and $11.4 billion.

"It's critical to get these numbers out there, because they're always much higher than people appreciate," says lead author Eyal Zimlichman, MD, of the Center for Patient Safety Research and Practice at Brigham & Women's Hospital. "Actually, these numbers are staggering."

His report is published in Monday's JAMA Internal Medicine.

Among the five types of infections evaluated, those infecting surgical sites, (SSIs) are the most frequently occurring, accounting for one-third of the cost or about $3.3 billion. The others are: ventilator-associated pneumonia ($3.09 billion), central line-associated bloodstream infections ($1.85 billion), Clostridium difficile infections ($1.5 billion), and catheter-associated urinary tract infections ($27.9 million).

Zimlichman says that surgical site infections are most certainly underreported, because symptoms often appear after the patient is discharged. "We need to have better surveillance of these, with feedback to the hospitals, so they know exactly what their rates are and can work on interventions to decrease these," he says.

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3 comments on "Healthcare-Associated Infection Costs Detailed"


Richard Weinberg MD (9/9/2013 at 3:25 PM)
Dr. Angel's frustration is easily understood but he misstates the reasoning behind the quality improvement process and the financial penalties to which he refers. The penaities are not designed to be levied on every post op infection; rather, they are designed to be levied on hospitals and surgeons whose infection rates are much higher than the "norm." The wide variation in these rates, which are risk and severity adjusted, is well documented and the CMS programs are designed to get the high-infection-rate institutions and physicians to do better.

Jeff Angel, M. D. (9/4/2013 at 6:43 PM)
Interesting article. Again, putting all the blame on hospitals and surgeons. Wow, why don't we get rid of hosptials and surgeons. Problem solved and save all those calculated dollars. Seriously, much work has been done by hospitals and doctors, but switching to a system that penalizes any infection with not paying someone for 5 days(that is what some of the extreme measures state) or shutting down hospitals, does that really help population? Sometimes, a surgical site infection is going to be 15%, no matter what...does that mean no one is going to do a great surgery, because of an expected infection rate????????????? What about the non-compliant patient[INVALID]refuse life-saving surgery or repairing a shattered femur after car wreck, because if it becomes infected or dvt occur because they smoke, have diabetes, cancer, or some other illness[INVALID][INVALID]-I'M responsible!!?????? Articles like this are sickening to surgeons[INVALID][INVALID]we are doing every swab, hibiclens, stratifying patient, etc we CAN DO!!!!!!!!!!! SURGEONS ARE NOT PROBLEM!!!! Why not run some counter articles. Sickening to see one side constantly!!!!!!!!!!! Dock my pay for expected rate of complications and cut my pay to near zero....who is going to take care of your shattered femur?

PRD (9/4/2013 at 1:40 PM)
I think you meant ventilator- a ssosciated RESPIRATORY tract infections.