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Push intensifies to cut hospital infection rates

Bloomberg News / October 9, 2008
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SAN FRANCISCO - Healthcare groups yesterday endorsed recommendations in a campaign to intensify hospitals' efforts to prevent infections that contribute to an estimated 99,000 patient deaths a year in the United States.

The guidelines for hospital practices call for removing catheters as soon as they are not needed, washing hands vigorously, and routinely cleaning intensive-care patients with a common disinfectant.

The endorsement from multiple healthcare groups adds weight to the pressures building on hospitals to comply.

While the guidelines are similar to those developed during the past two decades by a government advisory panel, the health groups aim to encourage hospitals to adopt the safety recommendations faster, Patrick J. Brennan, a University of Pennsylvania epidemiologist, said yesterday.

Moves to force greater disclosure of safety records and the US government's changing reimbursement policies also are pushing hospitals to use the new standards.

"The slow, prodding progression to success has been accelerated by all of these factors," said Brennan, president of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, one of the leading groups behind the effort.

Support from the American Hospital Association and from the Joint Commission, a national organization that accredits hospitals, also should help spur hospitals to use the guidelines, Brennan said. The recommendations released yesterday attempt to provide clear, practical ways for hospitals to put the guidelines in place, he said.

"We know what to do, but it's how to do it where we fail," Brennan said. "That is what these documents attempt to address."

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it will no longer reimburse hospitals for the costs of treating certain infections as of Oct. 1.

An estimated 1.7 million Americans a year contract an infection while receiving healthcare treatment, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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