Consumer Reports releases annual hospital-acquired infection report; some Ky. hospitals have work to do; state to get data

A new study from Consumer Reports has analyzed hospital-acquired infection data for thousands of hospitals across the U.S. and rated them on how well they prevented these infections.

Not all hospitals in Kentucky were rated, but of the ones that were, with scores rated from 1 to 100, Consumer Reports gave the highest safety scores to Clark Regional Medical Center in Winchester (68), Baptist Health La Grange (67), Crittenden County Hospital in Marion (66), and Williamson ARH Hospital in South Williamson (64).

Harlan ARH Hospital (25), Clinton County Hospital in Albany (27), Pikeville Medical Center (36) and University of Louisville Hospital (37) were on the low end of the safety scores.

The safety score is a summary five different categories that relate to hospital safety: avoiding infections, avoiding readmissions, communicating about medications and discharge, appropriate use of chest and abdominal scanning and avoiding mortality.

This years “avoiding infections” category placed a focus on C.diff (Clostridium difficile) and MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).

Consumer Reports says it focused on these two infections because they are “common and deadly” and also because” they are red flags that a hospital isn’t following best practices to prevent infections.” Only 6 percent of hospitals scored well against both infections, none of them in Kentucky, says the report.

The other infections included in this category are central-line associated bloodstream infections, catheter -associated urinary tract infections and surgical site infections. You can find these specific rankings by clicking on the “Compare Hospitals” option. Rankings were based on data reported to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between October 2013 and September 2014.

“Hospitals can be hot spots for infections and can sometimes amplify spread,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, told Consumer Reports. “Patients with serious infections are near sick and vulnerable patients—all cared for by the same health care workers sometimes using shared equipment.”

Every year an estimated 648,000 people in the U.S. develop infections during a hospital stay, and about 75,000 die with them, the CDC says. “That’s more than twice the number of people who die each year in car crashes,” says the report.

Consumer Reports says hospitals that scored well were best at two things: They have systems in place to make sure antibiotics are being used wisely and systems in place to keep the hospital “scrupulously clean,” including systems to assure basic hygiene practice are being done, like washing hands.

Consumer Reports reminds patients that they can insist on cleanliness while in the hospital, offering these tips: Ask to have your room cleaned if it looks dirty, keep bleach wipes at your bedside and wipe down your immediate area, ask your care-givers and guest to wash their hands, make sure tubes are changed on schedule and removed as soon as possible, ask for assistance in washing your own hands. It also notes that it is important to question the use of antibiotics, making sure they are needed and appropriate for your infection, to say no to razors as they can nick the skin and provide an opening to infection, to ask about MRSA screening and to pay attention to heartburn medications, which can increase the risk of developing C. diff.

In an effort to help further reduce hospital-acquired infections, Kentucky enacted legislation in January that redefines HAIs and HAI infections and requires simultaneous data reporting to the CDC and the state Department for Public Health. It will also require electronic reporting via the Kentucky Health Information Exchange beginning 2016. The law was prompted because the CDC has no authority to act on the data. Before the law, the health department had the authority, but not the data.

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