Healthcare-Associated Infection Costs Detailed

Cheryl Clark, 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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