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Agency Determines How to Reduce ICU Infection Rates

Recently, an important announcement was made at an annual conference hosted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The agency's findings could significantly impact fatality rates caused by a certain infection in hospitals.

The spread of infection in hospitals is one of the most frustrating kinds of medical negligence. When safety protocols, medication dosing guidelines and sterilization techniques are followed, the majority of these harmful infections is preventable. Given the prevalence of patient fatalities resulting from preventable infections, it is critical that this issue be addressed both swiftly and sufficiently.

Over the past few years, the AHRQ has been conducting a patient safety project designed to reduce a specific hospital-acquired infection known as central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI). After instituting infection reduction protocols in approximately 1,100 adult ICUs in 44 states, the agency determined that these protocols significantly reduce infection rates.

More specifically, correctly executed protocols reduced CLABSIs by 40 percent in ICUs nationwide. Estimates indicate that to date, these protocols have prevented over 2,000 CLABSIs and saved over 500 patient lives. In addition, these protocols have saved millions of dollars for both hospitals and patients.

The director for AHRQ indicated at the conference that "This program helps clinical teams provide the best in safety care using a collection of best practices. Some hospitals were able to reduce their infections to zero."

These significant findings will likely inspire both hospitals to voluntarily adopt these protocols and regulators to mandate some version of them in the name of patient safety. Victims of negligence leading to harmful infection may hold their providers accountable. However, the best case scenario for all Americans is that hospital-acquired infections are eradicated and thus prevented in the first place.

Source: Healthcare Finance News, "Patient safety project reduces infections by 40 percent, saves $34M," Kelsey Brimmer, Sept. 12, 2012

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