Hospital Acquired Infection (part 2)
One infection is called M.R.S.A. Patients who do survive M.R.S.A. often spend months in the hospital and endure several operations to cut out infected tissue. In 1974, two percent of staph infections were from M.R.S.A. BY 1995. that figure had soared to 22 percent . Today, experts estimate that more than 60 percent of staph infections are M.R.S.A. The Veteran's Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA, reduced M.R.S.A. 85 percent and the University of Virginia Medical Center eradicated it. Nearly three-quarters of patients' rooms are contaminated with M.R.S.A. Most hospitals in the US don't routinely test patients for staph bacteria. Studies show that 70 to 90 percent of patients carrying M.R.S.A. are never identified.
Many hospital administrators say they can't afford to take the necessary precautions, but they can't afford not to. Infections erode hospital profits because rarely are hospitals fully paid for the added weeks or months that patients must spend in the hospital when they get an infection. Studies show that when hospitals invest in these proven precautions, they are rewarded with as much as a tenfold financial return. These infections add about $30 billion annually to the nation's health costs. This will increase rapidly as more infections become drug-resistant.
Blood infections from central IV lines installed into veins near the heart kill as many as 28,000 patients a year. Installing a central line is a tricky procedure that is often done by inexperienced residents. At Johns Hopkins Hospital when they took aggressive steps to control the dangers of this procedure, including giving nurses permission to halt a central line insertion if they see a doctor doing it wrong, rates of catheter infections dropped to nearly zero.
For more information on Hospital Acquired Infection, see the special section on this site.
The Need for Quality Control
Donald Berwick, a Harvard pediatrician and a crusader for fixing flawed medical care, has stated, "American health care operates with levels of unreliability, injury, waste and just plain poor service that long ago became unacceptable in many other industries." Better quality control says Dr. Kenneth Kizer, who heads the National Quality Forum, "has the potential to do more for health care than any foreseeable technology improvement - including a cure for cancer." Some 2,000 hospitals have joined the 100,000 Lives Campaign led by Harvard's Berwick, Chief of the nonprofit Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Among other measures, these reformers are pushing hospitals to release their performance results to the public. They have likened medicine's injury problem to "three jumbo jet crashes every two days."
Prescription drug errors are another ongoing problem. The healthcare industry has been incredibly slow in using existing technology. Prescriptions are many times written out by hand. Because of the increase use of prescription drugs and because of the number of specialists each patient sees, prescriptions are often not checked for compatibility with other drugs the patient is receiving. Studies showed only 1 in 60 toxic drug reactions were being reported through normal channels. In most cases, doctors hadn't even noticed the problem. Use of Information Technology is an immediate antidote for this problem.
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