Wisconsin Hospitals Making Progress on Central Line Infection Rates

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Reducing the rate of infections can be one of the greatest challenges a healthcare organization faces, but Wisconsin has seen its hospitals tackle the greatest of these infections: central-line infections.

According to Guy Boulton of the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, these reduced rates are rather impressive: central-line infections in the ICU were down 56 percent in 2012 after a 21 percent reduction in 2011, the year Kelly Court, chief quality officer for the Wisconsin Hospital Association, said they first started to see “some dramatic decreases.”

Court explained, “We are not just preventing infections. We are saving lives.” According to statistics, one or two out of every 10 patients with a central-line infection will die.

In 2009, the Wisconsin Hospital Association began a series of initiatives targeting these infection rates, such as an extremely focused emphasis on handwashing.

Boulton writes, “The Wisconsin Hospital Association program is largely based on the Comprehensive Unit-Based Safety Program, a checklist of sorts developed by Peter Pronovost, a physician and professor at Johns Hopkins Medicine, who showed that infections could be reduced to almost zero by meticulously following standardized procedures.”

As a result, he continues, “Wisconsin hospitals also have reduced the occurrence of infections from urinary tract infections, compared with the national baseline. Their performance on the two measures for surgical-site infections is mixed, according to the report by the Wisconsin Division of Public Health. The infection rates for colon surgery are lower than the national baseline but higher for abdominal hysterectomy.”

Part of the eagerness to reduce these rates is related to Medicare’s public disclosure of individual hospital’s infection rates, bringing a hospital’s reputation under scrutiny, Dr. Clifford McDonald of the CDC observed.

According to the article, the CDC is expanding its scrutiny to include two other healthcare-associated infections: “Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a type of staph bacteria commonly known as MRSA, resistant to certain antibiotics. Clostridium difficile, known as c. diff, linked to an estimated 14,000 deaths a year in the United States.”

The CDC is requiring acute-care hospitals report the rates of these two infections in 2013 and will make that information public in 2014. On the Medicare Hospital Compare website, the government has already made infection-rate information available for urinary-tract infections from catheters and surgical-site infections for colon surgeries and abdominal hysterectomies.

“We are making progress,” McDonald said. “In some areas, we are making less progress than we would like. We have a lot that works. We have a lot that could work that hasn’t been implemented yet.”

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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