Healthcare News & Insights

Hospitals pay more attention to HAIs to avoid losing out on big bucks

Previously, about 2 million patients a year needed treatments for healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), which had a whopping price tag of over $25 billion. To make hospitals focus on these HAIs and cut down on healthcare dollars spent, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in 2008 decided not to reimburse hospitals for HAIs that weren’t present on admission. Did it work?

It would appear that CMS’s policy worked.

According to a national survey of infection preventionists (IPs), published in the May issue of American Journal of Infection Control, the fear of not being reimbursed for certain HAIs has increased facilities’ focus on prevention and front-line processes.

In fact, 81% of IPs at 317 acute care hospitals reported increased focus on the HAIs targeted by CMS, namely catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs) and central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs).

Due to increased surveillance, education and prevention efforts, the survey found that front-line staff are:

  • removing urinary catheters faster (71%)
  • removing central venous catheters faster (50%), and
  • increasing their use of antiseptic-containing dressings for central venous catheters (56%).

It would seem that hitting hospitals where it hurts most, is an effective tactic.

Other positive results that came from the CMS policy include a closer working relationship between infection prevention and quality improvement departments, as well as greater collaboration by interdisciplinary teams to prevent HAIs.

Unintended consequences

However, to increase their focus on these HAIs, one-third of the IPs surveyed said their hospitals have shifted their focus and resources away from some infections that CMS isn’t focusing on.

Also, some hospitals have shifted their attention to improving their physicians documentation and coding practices to avoid such financial penalties, instead of beefing up their infection prevention efforts.

Finally, one-quarter of the surveyed IPs said their facilities are performing more diagnostic tests during patient admissions to avoid missing out on reimbursement for HAIs.

While CMS’s policy seems to be having a positive affect on the surveyed facilities, there are some issues that still need to be addressed such as how the unintended consequences are affecting patient care, and if the policy changes are leading to improved patient outcomes.

Do you feel this policy has had a positive or negative effect on your facility? Share your thoughts on the subject.



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