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CLABSI: 'A Polio Campaign for the 21st Century'

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, June 2, 2010

"Working together, following this checklist, we can substantially reduce these infections. We've seen what is possible. We have prevented infections and we've saved lives," Pronovost said. "Now we must spread it across our great country and now we must begin to be accountable for our outcomes."

That may seem uncharacteristically cheerleader-like for a physician scientist, but CDC officials said that hospitals are going to have to get used to this kind of reporting. In future reports, CLABSI statistics will be augmented by detailed reports that include surgical site infections and catheter-associated urinary tract infections.

But while the report was touted as a turning point for transparency and accountability, it does not list hospital-specific infection rates, an omission that a reporter for the Associated Press put in the form of a question. "I'm thinking many readers would think of transparent as naming the hospital so they can hospital shop, so to speak," the reporter said.

Another speaker at the press conference, Rachel Stricof, director of the New York State's Bureau of Healthcare Associated Infections, which does publish hospital-specific infection rates, replied, "I believe only a handful of the states thus far have published their rates, but you will see more and more doing so as we collect a sufficient amount of data to make the information reliable."

In an e-mail to me yesterday, Pronovost wrote, "There is legitimate uncertainty about how to measure many types of harm and the extent to which they can be prevented. (But) a notable exception is CLABSI. It can be accurately measured and almost always prevented. As such it has become the test case for learning how to be accountable for outcomes."

Pronovost wrote that healthcare right now "needs a success story for quality and safety. And I believe CLABSI will be that story. Once we reduce these rates nationally, we can take what we learned about how to collaborate and apply it to the next type of preventable harm, such as ventilator associated pneumonia."

That sounds like a challenge that's worthy of a pep rally any day.


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Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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