According to Premier, about 1.7 million hospital patients in the United States acquired an HAI every year, costing the healthcare system more than $6.25 billion. Premier says South Carolina hospitals spent nearly $40 million last year in additional care costs because of HAIs, which increased the patient length of stay by more than eight days, or a total of 24,000 extra hospital days.
Jeanne Ward, president and CEO of Oconee Medical Center, in Seneca, SC, a 165-bed community hospital in the northwestern corner of the state, says SCHQT puts South Carolina among the vanguard in HAI control and gives rural hospitals a valuable new tool. "When you're in a smaller community, you don't have access to the epidemiologists at a larger research university or the information that some of the larger research universities have on line. It's a bit of a struggle for us," Ward says. "With this system we will be able to access all the research and best practices for preventing infections and for providing care for patients who do have an HAI, and we will be able to benchmark our performance against national and state standards."
While the focus today is on HAIs, Foster says SCHQT has the potential to provide evidence-based healthcare for other prevalent infirmities, like acute and chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and heart and vascular diseases. "What we'd like to have is a broad scope of resources and tools that can help on the clinical quality and safety sides," he says.
Foster and Ward are right to be excited about SCHQT. Programs that link hospitals, share resources, and pool data will play an increasingly important role in healthcare delivery in this country as our population ages and our physician base shrinks. It's not a splashy story for the top of the news hour, but we should nevertheless stay tuned for further developments.