Healthcare News & Insights

Reduce pneumonia rates, save money: Strategies for your facility

Hospital-acquired pneumonia puts patients’ health at serious risk. Beyond impacting patient safety, treating pneumonia costs money and resources, so revamping your facility’s prevention efforts can both boost your bottom line and improve patient care. 

Pneumonia is the No. 1 hospital-acquired infection in the United States, and it’s not just a problem that affects elderly patients. Those in their 40s and 50s are also vulnerable, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

Reducing pneumonia rates at your hospital is an excellent way to lower costs without sacrificing patient safety. And strategies for reduction don’t have to be complex or require a great deal of additional work.

4 keys

Four tactics the WSJ mentions that can help lower pneumonia rates are:

  • improving oral hygiene
  • elevating patients in their beds
  • increasing patient mobility, and
  • performing deep breathing exercises.

Elevating patients’ beds and allowing them to walk around helps move air through their lungs and clear out any germs, and deep breathing exercises keep respiratory tracts open.

But better oral care may be the most effective of those strategies. Multiple hospitals, including NYU Langone Health in New York and Sutter Health in Sacramento, CA, have implemented oral care programs for patients.

Encouraging patients to brush their teeth right before undergoing surgery and multiple times throughout the day has been shown to be effective in reducing rates of hospital-acquired pneumonia.

While more research is needed to definitively link oral care to decreased rates of pneumonia, it’s a low-cost and easy practice to implement. Treating one case of pneumonia costs around $40,000, the WSJ says. A toothbrush costs $1 at your local Target.

It’s also important to pay attention to patients who use opioids, as research has shown those patients may be more likely to contract pneumonia while in the hospital.

Benefits to prevention

Each year, 9,886 lives and $2.43 billion could be saved with a 50% reduction in pneumonia cases, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Infection Control.

Reducing pneumonia isn’t only beneficial for the patients at your facility. Cutting down on hospital-acquired pneumonia means patients can go home faster, which lowers costs. It also cuts down on readmission rates, which helps you avoid penalties from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Another tangential benefit? Patients are more likely to recommend your hospital on review sites or to their friends and family – something that can bring more patients into the fold and improve your hospital’s reputation in the community.

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