Who says home care isn't worth the money?

Hospital infection rate rises 36%

The Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) may think home care is a big liability, but when was the last time HCFA checked up on hospital infection rates?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate at which patients pick up an infection while being treated in a U.S. hospital has increased 36% in the past 20 years although fewer people are being hospitalized and hospital stays are shorter.

At a recent international conference in Atlanta on emerging infectious diseases, the CDC's William Jarvis, MD, reported, "Between 1975 and 1995, the nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infection rate increased about 36%," adding that the figure was based on discharge information from hospitals across the country.

The CDC estimates that today two million patients develop a hospital-acquired infection in the United States each year. Of that number, 90,000 die as a result of those infections. There were 9.77 hospital-acquired infections per 1,000 patient-days in 1995, compared with 7.18 in 1975, said Jarvis, who is acting director of the CDC's hospital infections program.

The rate had risen in part, Jarvis said, because hospitals were using more invasive procedures - breathing tubes and intravenous catheters, for example - to treat patients, which carry a risk of nosocomial infections despite their lifesaving advantages.

Not only are hospital patients at increased risk for infection, but the infectious diseases are increasingly resistant to drugs commonly used to treat them. Jarvis reported that in at least 79% of the hospital-acquired infections, the organism is resistant to at least one antibiotic. Moreover, in 35% to 40% of infections, the organism is resistant to the best drug one would use to treat it, he added.