Healthcare News & Insights

C. diff infections on the rise: How one hospital stopped the trend

Many hospitals throughout the country face an uphill battle in curbing their rates of Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infection – but with a few simple tweaks, a Cincinnati hospital managed to drop its infection rates by 80%.

C. diff, which causes problems in the digestive system, can lead to death in severe cases, and rates of hospitalization due to the illness are on the rise.

According to a study from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, C. diff hospitalization rates this year are expected be 12.8 per 1,000 non-maternal adult discharges.

For comparison, the hospitalization rate was just 5.6 in 2001.

There’s also been a rise in the disease for children. A study from the Mayo Clinic showed that the incidence of C. diff infection was 12 times higher in the period between 2004 and 2009 than it was in the period between 1991 and 1997.

And, an investigation conducted by USA Today links the disease to 30,000 deaths a year in the United States.

In 2009, The Jewish Hospital–Mercy Health in Cincinnati launched an initiative to drop its cases of C. diff infection because rates were staggering – about 16 cases a month. During the first six months of its efforts alone, rates decreased by 50%.

By winter 2012, infection rates at the hospital had decreased by 80% of their initial numbers.

The hospital created a multidisciplinary team to address the problem, including an infectious-disease doctor, hospital pharmacists, and various hospital directors and administrators.

Strategies employed by The Jewish Hospital to reduce infection rates include:

  • Rapid detection:  All patients admitted to the hospital with diarrhea who have a history of taking certain medications linked to the contraction of a C. diff infection are immediately isolated and tested for the bacteria.
  • New cleaning practices: Wards and rooms with C. diff patients are cleaned more often and more thoroughly, with dedicated cleaning tools and bleach-based disinfectants. A special sensor is used to detect whether surfaces have been properly cleaned.
  • Staff training: All hospital staff who come into contact with patients were trained on proper hygiene procedures to prevent the spread of C. diff, including hand washing. Cleaning staff are now continuously trained about cleaning and decontamination techniques, and
  • Drug controls: Patients who are taking antibiotics or other medications that increase their risk of contracting C. diff are closely monitored by hospital pharmacists. Doctors were also educated about the dangers of over-prescribing antibiotics and how they can contribute to the spread of C. diff.

If you think implementing a system like this would be prohibitively costly for your hospital, think again: The Jewish Hospital only spent about $5,000 upfront for start-up costs (mostly to purchase the room-cleaning sensors), and it costs the hospital around $10,000 a year to maintain the initiative, which covers everything from training sessions to equipment.

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  1. […] great example of such a successful effort against C-Diff took place at The Jewish Hospital-Mercy Health, in Cincinnati. They put into action this four-point […]

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