Consumer group urges public to demand data

Here’s a sample letter to feds on infection data

The Consumers Union, publishers of Consumer Reports, is urging people to write their government representatives and demand open records on hospital infection rates. (Go to: www.stophospitalinfections.org.) "Tell federal regulators that you want them to collect and report infection rates from every hospital so we can effectively choose among hospitals, and so hospitals will have the strongest possible incentive to improve," the group states. Here is the text of the sample letter on the issue that consumers are urged use:

"Thank you for taking steps to improve access to information about hospital quality. However, I was surprised to learn that you do not collect hospital-acquired infection information from every hospital. I believe this kind of information is an important measure of quality, and I want to know if my local hospital is providing good quality care. I was disturbed to learn that one in 20 patients acquire an infection during their hospital stay and that the CDC says about 90,000 people die each year from hospital infections. In 2003, the Institute of Medicine recommended significantly reducing hospital-acquired infection as a top priority for improving the quality of care provided by hospitals.

"I urge you to collect and publish hospital-acquired infection rates as part of your national quality initiative. If this information were available about every hospital, it would help me and others make more informed health care choices and would encourage all hospitals to improve."