A new study that estimates nearly 19,000 Americans died in 2005 from a virulent, antibiotic-resistant infection acquired mostly in the hospital underscores the need for Congress to require public reporting of patient infection rates, according to Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports.
The study by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded that almost 95,000 people developed Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections that year, and that 85 percent of the infections were acquired in health care settings.
"Every day, fifty Americans die from MRSA because hospitals aren't doing enough to protect patients from these deadly infections," said Lisa McGiffert, Director of Consumers Union's Stop Hospital Infections campaign (www.StopHospitalInfections.org). "The public deserves to know which hospitals are doing a good job preventing infections and keeping patients safe.
HR 1174, a bipartisan measure sponsored by Rep. Tim Murphy, R-PA, would require the public reporting by hospitals and surgical centers of one or more types of healthcare-acquired infections. Under the bill, the Secretary of Health and Human Services would determine which of the major types of infections would need to be reported. HHS would submit an annual report to Congress on steps being taken to reduce infections, and there would be a pilot program to assist certain hospitals in developing anti-infection programs.
"By making infection rates public, HR 1174 will encourage hospitals to improve patient care and ultimately save lives and dollars," said McGiffert.
MRSA and other hospital acquired infections can spread from patient to patient through contact with doctors and nurses with unwashed hands, contaminated gloves and medical equipment. Numerous studies have documented that hand hygiene compliance rates in most hospitals are unacceptably low -- usually below 50 percent.
That means, on average, doctors, nurses and other health care workers are failing to clean their hands properly over half the time. Earlier this week, Consumers Union called on hospitals nationwide to disclose their hand hygiene compliance rates.
The CDC has previously estimated that nearly two million patients develop a variety of infections, including MRSA infections, while being treated in the hospital every year. These patients require extra care and often end up staying longer in the hospital to recover, which adds billions of dollars to the health care bill paid by insurers, consumers, and taxpayers annually. Nearly 100,000 people die from MRSA and other hospital-acquired infections annually.
In a recent report based on data collected from its hospitals, Pennsylvania found that insurers paid nearly $46,000 more for patients with infections than for patients without infections. Dr. John A. Jernigan, Chief of Interventions and Evaluations at the CDC, has said that these infections result in up to $27.5 billion in additional hospital-related expenses annually.
In recent years, nineteen states have passed laws requiring hospitals to disclose how many of their patients are developing infections during treatment. The public reporting laws are aimed at spurring hospitals to improve infection control efforts and helping consumers make more informed health care decisions. A hospital infection reporting law also was approved by the New Jersey state legislature, but it has not been signed into law yet.
So far, Florida, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Vermont have produced public reports on their state hospitals' infection rates. More information about these reports can be found at: http://www.consumersunion.org/campaigns/stophospitalinfections/learn.html
PLEASE NOTE: Consumers Union can connect reporters with people who have suffered from MRSA and other hospital acquired infections. Contact Suzanne Henry (512-477-4431, ext 121) or Michael McCauley (415-431-6747, ext 126) to learn more.
Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, is an independent, nonprofit testing and information organization serving only the consumer. We are a comprehensive source of unbiased advice about products and services, personal finance, health, nutrition, and other consumer concerns. Since 1936, our mission has been to test products, inform the public, and protect consumers. www.StopHospitalInfections.org, a project of Consumers Union, advocates for public disclosure of hospital-acquired infection rates.