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C. diff Infection Raises Hospital Costs by 40% per Case

 |  By Alexandra Wilson Pecci  
   January 18, 2016

Treating Clostridium difficile adds about $7,285 in hospital costs per patient, not including readmissions, research finds.

It can be difficult to quantify the exact economic burden of C. diff on hospitals and the health system as a whole. But a recent study puts a dollar amount on the cost of C. diff, that number is not only big, but also likely underestimated.

Published in the November issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, the study found that C. diff-associated diarrhea (CDAD) increases hospital costs by 40% per case and puts those infected at high risk for longer hospital stays and readmissions.


Glenn Magee, MBA

Researchers conducted a retrospective analysis of inpatient hospital data, examining 171,586 eligible discharges from between January 2009 and December 2011 from approximately 500 U.S. hospitals in the Premier Healthcare Database.

The 40% increase in costs per case added up to an average of $7,285 in additional costs. Costs were higher for certain high-risk subgroups of patients.

In addition, compared to patients without C. diff, those infected had an estimated:

  • 77% higher chance of being readmitted within 30 days
  • 55% longer hospital stay of nearly five days
  • 13% higher risk of mortality

According to Glenn Magee, MBA, lead author of the study and principal research scientist, Premier Research Services, Premier, Inc., other studies into the cost of C. diff have been limited in both geography and demographics—and sometimes limited to single hospitals—causing some hospital executives to question whether their own hospital would experience the same cost burden.

But the hospitals in the Premier Healthcare Database are geographically diverse and provide a representative sampling of both teaching and nonteaching hospitals, according to Premier.

"When you have a study that considerers 500 hospitals and estimates these costs, it's a lot more resonant," he said.

In addition, the study's estimates are conservative for the health system as a whole, mainly because they don't factor in the cost of readmissions, and instead, "only considered hospital costs and not physician or treatment costs beyond the index hospitalization," it says.

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders.

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