Hospital infections cost U.S. billions per year
According to studies that analyze the annual cost of treating infections that people obtain in hospitals, the number of hospital-acquired infections is improving. New findings show costs have dropped significantly from an average $40 billion down to $20 billion and then down to the current rate of $10 billion. But experts say that there is still work to be done. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one out of every 20 patients admitted to a hospital ends up getting an infection during their stay.
Twenty-six studies were analyzed to determine the five most common, preventable and expensive hospital-acquired infections. The most expensive hospital-acquired infections to treat are ones in the bloodstream. They cost approximately $46,000 per case.The second-most expensive hospital-acquired infection to treat is pneumonia caused by ventilators, costing approximately $40,000 per case. Other infections occur too, and they can be the results of preventable errors.
Post-surgery infections, infections involving Clostridium difficile and urinary tract infections associated with catheters also fall into these categories. The director for the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality at John Hopkins Medicine stated that such infections are much too common and often lethal. Moreover, they can be prevented if healthcare teams follow a best practices checklist. Experts also say that patients can take measures to protect themselves. For instance, when someone enters their patient rooms, they can ask them if they washed their hands if they didn't see them doing so.
People who developed infections as a result of hospital negligence might be able to file medical malpractice lawsuits to seek reimbursement. Medical malpractice attorneys might be able to help plaintiffs show that their infections were caused by substandard care and help them negotiate settlements for their claims.
Source: Reuters, "Hospital infections cost U.S. $10 billion a year", Anne Harding, September 12, 2013