Healthcare News & Insights

What hospitals can learn from new HAI penalties

About 700 facilities are getting hit with penalties from the government for not doing enough to cut down on medical errors. And it doesn’t look like the heat will be dying down any time soon. 

176987609CMS isn’t easing up on the pressure when it comes to getting hospitals to reduce the number of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), according to Kaiser Health News.

Wide-spread penalties

This year, 721 hospitals will have their Medicare reimbursement lowered 1% for having the highest rates of HAIs, such as infections from catheters, blood clots, bed sores and other preventable complications.

About $373 million in penalties are getting dolled out nationwide. But certain types of facilities are getting hit harder than others, particularly those that handle more complex cases.

According to Kaiser’s analysis of the data, about half of teaching hospitals are getting penalized. This is likely because academic medical centers often handle more difficult, HAI-prone services, such as organ transplants.

The government is still focused on reducing patient harm, and will continue to up the penalties for facilities not meeting the status quo.

Each year, CMS reassesses the penalities and which HAIs they’ll be based on. In the next two years, hospitals will be penalized based on their rates of surgical-site infections and the prevalence of antibiotic resitant germs C. Diff and MRSA.

Facilities will have to pull out all the stops to reduce HAIs and patient harm if they wish to to avoid future penalties. Hospitals should consider what kind of services they provide, and how likely patients are to develop HAIs during those procedures. This can give you a better understanding of what areas in your facility may need additional attention.

You also may need to consider some unlikely or overlooked sources for HAIs in order to more effectively reduce infections throughout your facility.

The copper standard

According to NPR, one of those HAI sources might be your hospital bed railings. Constanza Correa, a researcher and leader of healthare start-up CopperBioHealth, believes she and her colleagues have found a workable solution — copper bed rails.

Correa notes that bed railings are often the most contaminated surfaces in a room. However, copper and copper-alloys have microbe-killing properties, which means it could eliminate harmful bacteria and viruses on contact. By incorpoating copper material in frequently touched surfaces, like bed rails, IV poles, feed tables, etc., hospitals would have one added protection against HAIs.

So far the research on the matter has been positive. A recent study shows more copper-alloy surfaces in hospital rooms reduced the number of HAIs by 8.1%.

The downside  is the cost of implementing the new railings. However, locating which areas and patients are most at risk for HAIs could help you target where copper railings and other HAI-prevention methods would have the greatest effect.


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