Connecticut hospital group fights infection rate law

Would create meaningless, misleading’ data

A proposed infection rate disclosure law in Connecticut focuses mistakenly on "counting infections, rather than holding hospitals accountable for implementing strategies to prevent them," a representative of the state hospital association recently testified.

"Instead of generating information that consumers could use to make "apples-to-apples" comparisons of hospitals, SB (state bill) 160 would produce meaningless and potentially misleading information about infection rates that are affected by many factors unrelated to the quality of care provided by Connecticut hospitals, such as patients’ other medical conditions," said Patrick J. Monahan II, general counsel and vice president of patient care regulation at the Connecticut Hospital Association (CHA).

Testifying at a March 6 hearing on the state bill, Monahan echoed the concerns of many infection control professionals regarding the data generated by such legislation.

"The process SB 160 would use to generate infection rates through reporting of individual infections to [state health officials] is inconsistent with carefully developed public reporting efforts already implemented in Connecticut and other states and by the federal government," he told state legislators. "As a result, SB 160 reporting would not allow for comparison of Connecticut hospitals’ performance with other states, and because it focuses on development of individual corrective actions after each infection, it would miss opportunities for improvement of systematic processes to prevent infections."

Connecticut hospitals are recognized national leaders in performance reporting because they have backed up their commitments to accountability with concrete action and will do so again with infection prevention initiatives, Monahan emphasized. In 2003, Connecticut was the first state in which all hospitals agreed to provide information to the federal government for public reporting before there were any financial incentives or mandates to do so, he noted.

"You are likely to hear testimony today estimating the prevalence of hospital-acquired infections and describing the debilitating effects that such infections have on individuals and families," he said. "I want to make it absolutely clear that CHA and Connecticut hospitals believe that even one preventable infection is too many. Connecticut hospitals and their medical professionals have been and continue to be committed to reducing infections and reporting useful information to the public. We believe, however, that even with the best of intentions behind it, SB 160 will not work and will take resources away from initiatives that do work, such as the CHA infection prevention initiative."

Monahan was joined in his testimony by Louise M. Dembry, MD, MS, hospital epidemiologist at Yale-New Haven (CT) Hospital. They highlighted ongoing infection prevention efforts by Connecticut hospitals that include:

  • expanding voluntary public reporting to include two new surgical infection prevention measures;
  • refining and implementing clinical best practices;
  • expanding efforts in community education.

"Connecticut hospitals have a long history of working together to improve quality and patient safety," said a supporting statement released by Jennifer Jackson, president and CEO of the Connecticut Hospital Association. "Although the issue of hospital-acquired infections has gained significant public interest in recent years, in fact hospitals have been involved in infection prevention efforts for decades."