Hospital-associated Infections Down, But Miss Targets

A new report shows hospital-associated infections have dropped in 4 out of 5 areas targeted by a US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) initiative, but the progress falls short of the department's infection-reduction goals.

A new report shows hospital-associated infections have dropped in 4 out of 5 areas targeted by a US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) initiative, but the progress falls short of the department’s infection-reduction goals.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week released a progress report on hospital-associated infection rates from 2008-2103. The main findings are mostly positive:

  • Central line-associated bloodstream infections dropped 46% between 2008 and 2013
  • Surgical-site infections dropped 19% in the 10 procedures tracked from 2008-2013.
  • Hospital-onset MRSA infections dropped 8% from 2011 to 2013.
  • Hospital-onset Clostridium difficile infections fell by 10% between 2011 and 2013.

That’s the good news.

The bad news: Catheter-associated urinary tract infects actually increased. From 2009-2013, those infections rose by 6% nationally.

“Hospitals have made real progress to reduce some types of healthcare-associated infections—it can be done,” said Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, the CDC’s director, in a press release. “The key is for every hospital to have rigorous infection control programs to protect patients and healthcare workers, and for health care facilities and others to work together to reduce many types of infections that haven’t decreased enough.”

Indeed, while the CDC report shows progress in most categories, the progress in all 5 categories lags behind the goals laid out by HHS in recent years.

Lisa McGiffert, director of the Safe Patient Project at the Consumers Union, said the data are a disappointment and should serve as wake up call.

“Five years ago, HHS set modest targets for hospitals to meet,” McGiffert said, in a press release. “…Based on the this report, policymakers and the public should demand sizable increases in attention and resources to this national scandal that injures nearly 650,000 hospital patients each year and causes 75,000 deaths.”

While the CDC report did not lay out individual hospital scores, McGiffert noted that patients can review hospital infection data using the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service’s Hospital Compare tool.