Healthcare News & Insights

Why infection prevention programs are worthwhile

Establishing a dedicated infection prevention program in your hospital is likely more cost-effective than you think – and it’ll have a big impact on saving patients’ lives, according to the results of a new study.

151908608Researchers at Columbia University examined the outcomes of over 17,000 older Medicare patients admitted to the ICU in 31 hospitals across the country.

Their goal was to look at how patients’ recovery was affected by hospital-acquired infections and the effectiveness of the hospitals’ infection prevention programs, as described in a press release from the university’s medical center. The results of the study were published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

Improved results

Although 57% of the patients died in the five years following their hospital stay, death was more likely for those who developed an infection in the hospital. Seventy-five percent of patients who developed central line-associated bloodstream infections passed away in five years, and 77% of patients who contracted ventilator-associated pneumonia died in five years.

Patients who were treated at hospitals with effective prevention programs for central line-associated bloodstream infections lived an average of 15.55 years longer after their hospital stays than other ICU patients in the study. And patients from hospitals that had targeted efforts to prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia gained an average of 10.84 years of life compared to other ICU patients.

Some of the interventions used by these hospitals included:

  • immediately changing dirty or wet dressing around the central line to prevent catheter-associated bloodstream infections, and
  • keeping patients elevated in their hospital beds, positioned so that their heads are higher than their feet, to prevent ventilator-acquired pneumonia.

Effects on costs

Besides the benefits to patient care, infection prevention programs can be cost-effective as well.

From looking at hospitals in the study that had infection prevention programs of their own, researchers determined that the average cost of maintaining an effective program was $145,000 a year. And the average startup cost was only $16,000.

These prevention efforts paid for themselves many times over. In fact, they reduced the ICU costs per patient by over $174,700 per patient for each instance of central line-associated bloodstream infection, and by over $163,000 for each patient per case of ventilator-associated pneumonia.

So in the long run, these investments actually save healthcare costs.

Data like this make having a dedicated infection prevention program in every hospital a no-brainer. Creating one won’t break the budget. Instead, it’ll help each hospital accomplish two goals: keeping patients healthy and saving healthcare costs — two objectives the feds are pressuring hospitals to achieve more effectively.

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