Hospital Compare Posts New Bloodstream Infection Data

In an effort to save lives and save money, CMS has just added a new data element to the Hospital Compare website which will hopefully accomplish both. In a statement released earlier this month, officials at CMS announced that Hospital Compare will now include data about how often central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs) occur in hospital intensive care units across the country.  This step will hold hospitals accountable for bringing down the rates of these preventable infections, aiming at saving thousands of lives and millions of dollars each year, as CLABSIs are among the most serious of all healthcare-associated infections, resulting in thousands of deaths each year and nearly $700 million in added costs to the U.S. healthcare system

 “Including central line-associated bloodstream infections information on Hospital Compare will save lives and cut costs,” said acting CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.  “Adding this information to Hospital Compare extends the Administration’s commitment to make American healthcare safer.”

 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is estimated that in 2009, there were about 41,000 CLABSIs in U.S. hospitals.  A CLABSI begins in a central line, which is a catheter, normally used to provide nutrition, fluids and medication to the body, but also can be the source of a major infection if it is not kept very clean. The CDC found that up to 25 percent of patients who get a CLABSI will die from the infection, and that caring for a patient with a CLABSI adds about $17,000 to a hospitalization. These infections prolong hospitalizations and can cause death, yet they are completely preventable.  

 “Today, consumers are getting access to data provided to hospital leaders and clinicians to monitor progress in reducing CLABSIs,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.  “This information allows CDC and CMS to highlight prevention and pinpoint where more work is needed on these avoidable infections.”

 CMS touts this initiative as a means of making American health care safer. In 2011, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius launched the Partnership for Patients initiative, which seeks to reinvent American healthcare delivery in ways that keep patients from being injured or getting sicker in a care system designed to heal them. Over 6,000 partners, including more than 3,000 hospitals, have been recruited by CMS to join in this effort, which aims to reduce preventable harm in hospitals by 40 percent by 2014.

Patient safety advocates are cheering. Consumer Reports cited Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project commenting that “Today’s action represents a milestone. Finally, Americans in all 50 states will be able to find out how well their hospital prevents these particular infections. Public disclosure drives hospitals to improve care and helps patients choose hospitals with better safety records.”

 These new reporting requirements apply to hospitals that participate in CMS’ “pay-for-reporting” program, which earns hospitals a higher Medicare payment for reporting quality data. And more quality data is forthcoming. Consumer Reports notes that, beginning in 2013, surgical site infection data will also be posted quarterly on Hospital Compare, although this month, hospitals will begin reporting that data to the CDC.

Hospital Compare has been available since 2005 as a means of providing information about the quality of care provided in over 4,700 of America’s acute-care, critical access and children’s hospitals.  Patients are able to easily locate information about  hospitals, such as mortality and readmission rates for each, as well as 10 measures that capture patient experience with hospital care, 17 measures that assess patient safety at each hospital, 25 process-of-care measures and three children’s asthma care measures. According to CMS, the site receives about one million visits each month, and for patients looking to find a safe hospital for their surgery, the site has just become even more valuable.