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Hospital Acquired Infections Cost U.S. Billions Each Year

Posted on September 16, 2013

A new study conducted by the Center for Patient Safety Research and Practice has revealed that hospital-acquired infections cost the U.S. health care system nearly $10 billion annually — and according to one of the study’s author’s, that’s a substantial improvement.

Pointing out that past studies have indicated that the cost of treating infections had been estimated between $20 billion to $40 billion per year, the author said that, while hospital-acquired infections appear to be going down, “much more can be done.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one in 20 hospital patients in the U.S. acquire an infection while being treated. That adds up to nearly 441,000 infections each year — at a cost of $9.8 billion annually.

Florida passed a law in 2004 that requires hospitals to report infections. Critics note, however, that the results have been “disappointing” as the state has not adopted a standardized system for the collection of that data, which can lead to highly subjective ideas as to what makes a hospital’s infection rate “As Expected” or “Higher than Expected.”

According to the new study, there are many sources of hospital-acquired infections. The most expensive infections to treat are bloodstream infections from central lines, followed by ventilator-associated pneumonia.

The director of the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore told Reuters that up to 70 percent of ventilator-associated pneumonias and central line infections can be prevented.

“We really need to accelerate our efforts to reduce these infections,” he stated.

Health care experts have pointed out that hospitals have had little incentive to decrease their infection rates since insurers usually cover the cost of treating those infections. But that is changing. Medicare is no longer paying hospitals to treat these infections, which one health care expert called an important move toward “paying for quality, not quantity, of care.”

Have you or somebody you love been injured by a preventable hospital infection? You may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering and other damages. Find out what your legal options are. Call us at (800) 533-3555 or contact us online to set up a free and confidential review of your case.