March 26, 2015

Efforts Underway To Increase Access To Hospital Infections Data

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A state lawmaker who is pushing public health and hospital officials to make data on hospital infection rates available to consumers, in the wake of a C-HIT story, says he is “encouraged” by a new website on hospital quality launched by the Department of Public Health (DPH) Office of Health Care Access.

But state Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, said he still wants to work with DPH and state hospitals to make the infection rate information more easily accessible.

DPH recently launched a website application, developed by the federal Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, that provides information on quality and utilization measures, including hospital-acquired infections, for each Connecticut hospital.

“I think it’s a very good start, and I appreciate (DPH Commissioner) Dr. Jewell Mullen recognizing that the data should be made available,” Hwang said. “But I still think we need to find ways to make that information more easily available,” possibly through disclosures on individual hospitals’ websites, he said.

“Let’s step up the transparency, so that consumers can make the best possible informed decisions.”

Hospital-acquired infections, caused by viral, bacterial and fungal pathogens, have become a major focus of concern by the federal government, which has begun withholding Medicare reimbursements to hospitals with the worst rates. Fourteen Connecticut hospitals are facing a 1-percent reduction in Medicare reimbursements this year.

A November story by C-HIT reported that more than 50 percent of the state’s hospitals had rates for at least one type of hospital-acquired infection that were worse than federal benchmarks, in late 2012 and 2013. No other state had a higher percentage of its hospitals exceeding the infection standards set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and most states had fewer than 20 percent, according to the data, compiled by Kaiser Health News.

Officials of the Connecticut Hospital Association have been working with national groups and Qualidigm, the state’s Medicare quality-improvement consultant, to train hospital employees in reducing preventable harm and instituting safety protocols. They note that state hospitals saw a 30-percent reduction in central line-associated bloodstream infections between 2008 and 2012, and said there are collaborative efforts underway to eliminate other infections.

C-HIT has launched a new searchable database where consumers can look up infection rates for every state hospital.

Hwang said he hopes that increased transparency will prompt hospitals to accelerate their efforts to combat infections by creating “market-driven” competition that “encourages culture change.”

“All I really care about,” Hwang said, “is that any patient who goes into a hospital gets the best possible care and protection against infection.”

 

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