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South Carolina Posts Hospital Infection Rates

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Data about hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) for the most recent six months is available to the public, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control announced today.

“Hospital-acquired infection rates must be reported to DHEC and made available to the public every six months,” said Jerry J. Gibson, M.D., director of DHEC's Bureau of Disease Control. “These mid-year reports contain raw data, which are preliminary and have not yet been confirmed. They are based on only six months of information so will contain too few procedures to offer a complete picture of hospital infection rates. However, they allow DHEC to review the processes the hospitals are using to report infections to assure the accuracy and completeness of reporting.”

Dr. Gibson said this raw data will be combined and verified for the annual comparison report containing 12 months of data, which is reported each year to the state legislature and the public. The annual report for 2008, containing individual hospital and comparison reports by procedure type, is still available on the Web.

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According to Dr. Gibson, infections that patients get while they are being treated in hospitals and other health care facilities are a major public health problem in the United States. Those health care-associated infections can be very serious. They can increase the cost and length of a hospital stay and can even result in death. Based on 2002 data, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 1.7 million HAIs occur in hospitals each year. These infections result in an estimated 99,000 deaths and nearly $20 billion more in health care costs each year.

“Some of the numbers are not large enough to be statistically meaningful,” Dr. Gibson said, “Because the numbers are so small in a mid-year report, substantial differences in infection rates are often the result of chance variation rather than real differences in risk between hospitals.”

Dr. Gibson advised people to be careful how they use the information. Some patients have conditions that make them more likely to get infections. A patient’s age, underlying diseases and level of illness all affect their risk for infection. Hospitals that treat patients who have greater risk of infection are expected to have higher rates.

“When looking at these reports, remember that no single source of information can be used to determine overall quality of care in a hospital,” Dr. Gibson said. “A hospital’s experience with HAIs is only one thing to consider when choosing a facility. You should consider the advice of your physician and the experience of the facilities and surgeons. Any factors that are unique to you should be considered as well.”