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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

Consumer Reports, patient safety advocates keep health care infections on the front burner

In addition to pushing for transparency and accountability on health care-associated infections (HAIs), consumer and patient safety advocates add a fresh perspective and a few much-needed new metaphors to this longstanding problem. For example, Joe Kiani, Founder of the Patient Safety Movement Foundation, recently used the following analogy at a Congressional hearing to describe how HAIs and other preventable adverse events are sometimes factored into the cost of care:

“Can you imagine taking your car in for service, and the service station sets your car on fire accidentally and then asks you to still pay for the service you brought it in for and the fire extinguisher costs they had to use to put out the fire?,” he said. “That’s unfortunately what happens in our care system.”

Where’s the outrage?

Though the Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, has been raising awareness and pushing HAI reporting laws for about a decade, an advocate there hasn’t lost her initial shock at the lack of outrage over the scale of a problem that claims 100,000 patient lives a year.

“It has always been curious to us and devastating to people who experience that these infections that there isn’t somebody at CDC who is pounding their fist and saying that this has to stop -- that hospitals aren’t outraged that so many people are getting hurt,” says Lisa McGiffert, director of the Safe Patient Project at the Consumers Union. “It’s very difficult to understand. I think the culture has changed a lot over the last 10 years, but there still is a sense of inevitability for a lot of [HAIs]. There is certainly more awareness and lives saved every day, but we don’t really have a national system to support the work that needs to be done. Hospitals need to invest more money in infection prevention than they are today and they are not doing that. Some of them are, but across the board they are not. That is a problem. It should be as fundamental as funding for beds and oxygen tanks. The infection preventionist is fundamental to health care.”

For more on this story see the January issue of Hospital Infection Control & Prevention