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Infection Rates in Some Philadelphia Hospitals are Decreasing

May 27, 2013

Infection Rates in Philadelphia Hospitals are a Serious Problem

Most people know that infection rates in hospitals are higher than they should be.  One of the reasons you see signs about washing hands as well as containers of antibiotic solution all over the place is that hospitals are aware of this seriousness of this issue and are trying to decrease the number of infections. One area of specific concern involves central lines and urinary catheters.

Are Hospitals Making Progress in Reducing Infection Rates ?

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently analyzed data and found that hospitals are starting to make progress in decreasing infection rates in central lines and urinary catheters.  This is wonderful news for patients. Unfortunately, some Philadelphia area hospitals still aren’t doing as well as they should, so there is still much work to be done.

Central lines (tubes used to deliver fluids and medicine through a vein) and urinary catheters are two areas that can cause problems in ICUs.  According to the article, 11 Philadelphia area hospitals did better than expected when it came to “preventing infection related to central lines.”  On the other hand, five Philadelphia hospitals, “did worse than predicted at preventing infections associated with urinary catheters.”  Two  Philadelphia hospitals were better than expected on both central lines and urinary catheters.  They are Temple University Hospital and Hahnemann University Hospital.

Insurers Seeking to Cut Costs

One of the reasons that hospitals are working to cut rates of infection in both central lines and urinary catheters is because Medicare will no longer pay for infections or other conditions that are, “deemed caused by the hospital.”  The result of the efforts are showing.  Central line infections have decreased 41% between 2008 and 2011.

However, hospitals are self-reporting, so it is difficult to know the true rate of infection caused by hospital error.

Tools to Philadelphia Hospitals are Using to Cut Infection

  • “Transparent dressings on central lines, so nurses can check for redness and other signs of infection at the insertion site.
  • Alcohol-infused caps to cover central-line ports that are not in use;
  • Sterile kits that contain all needed equipment, so no one needs to go hunting for supplies;
  • Automated alerts to remove catheters when no longer needed, meaning less time for infections to set in.”
  • Committees to review all infections
  • Catheters with antimicrobial agents

It’s a Start

It is good to know that Philadelphia hospitals are working to improve infection rates in central lines and urinary catheters.  However, there is still a long way to go, not only in intensive care, but throughout the medical profession.  For detailed information on how both Pennsylvania and New Jersey hospitals are doing, check out this data comparison chart from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

It is good to see that Medicare is putting pressure on hospitals as a way of cutting costs. It would be nice to see private insurance doing the same, since under the current system, hospitals can benefit financially if patients are forced to stay in  the hospital longer.  Hopefully we will see more efforts in every area of the medical profession to reduce infection.

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