A mid-sized hospital in Athens is boasting of its low rate of hospital-acquired infection among hospitals that utilize infection-tracking software called MedMined, which is based in Birmingham, Alabama.
Our Birmingham medical malpractice lawyers understand the product was first released in 2000, and a pilot study of six health care providers from 2002 to 2004 revealed hospitals were able to reduce infection rates by nearly 20 percent over that time.
Still, this software is only utilized in 350 hospitals across the country. That's a fraction of a percent. Preventable hospital-acquired infections are the most common medical malpractice claim. In fact, hospital-acquired infections are estimated to account for some $30 billion in direct medical costs each year.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are an estimated 2 million hospital-acquired infections annually, with about 90,000 people dying each year. That's nearly three times the number of people who die in traffic accidents nationwide.
Another 1.5 million infection cases are reported in nursing homes around the country.
These are caused by a wide range of bacteria, viruses and fungi that people encounter while they are receiving care for other issues. But with advances in technology like MedMined, these infections are not only most often preventable - they are unacceptable. The CDC in fact has a long list of preventative informational guides available to every type of facility where there is close human contact, including hospitals, surgery centers, dialysis settings, nursing homes, dental offices and correctional facilities.
Some of the minimum expectations include:
- Frequent washing and/or sterilization of staff hands, instruments and patient rooms;
- Screening for latent infections of incoming patients;
- Vaccination (if applicable) and screening of infectious diseases for staffers.
Alabama is slightly ahead of the curve when it comes to this issue, following the 2011 passage of the Mike Denton Infection Reporting Act, which requires health care facilities to cull information on inpatient hospital-acquired infections and then report that information to the state's Department of Public Health. The bill is named for a 42-year-old patient who died of a staph infection after undergoing knee surgery 11 years ago.
What services like MedMined do is track nonsocomial infection markers, which are the incidence of hospital-acquired infections, including those of the respiratory, blood, urine, wound and stool. Tracking the infections in real time allows facilities to pinpoint and eliminate the source quicker than would otherwise be possible.
The Athens facility reported an infection rate of 1.39 percent last year, with a four-year low of 1.03 percent reported in 2010.
A hospital-acquired infection can be particularly virulent and difficult to treat as so-called "super germs," or those resistant to antibiotics, most often thrive in such environments. Yet, it remains an issue that hospitals and medical clinics across the country are only now beginning to track and report. Too often, these infections attack a victim who is recovering from a serious medical condition. The patient's weakened state impacts the immune system's ability to respond. Even for those patients who report making a complete recovery, infections prolong their hospital stay, add to their medical expenses and lengthen the time necessary to recover.
ALH's Powers touts low hospital infection rate, Jan. 15, 2013, By Kim West, The Athens News Courier