IRVING, Texas, Dec. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- VHA Inc., the health care
cooperative that serves not-for-profit hospitals and health systems
nationwide, has surveyed infection control specialists at member organizations
and discovered several factors that may contribute to an increased likelihood
of patients developing infections while in the hospital.
"We found that in some hospitals infection control resources are stretched
very thin," said John Hitt, M.D., vice president of clinical improvement for
VHA. "With an increased emphasis on hospital infections as part of a national
emphasis on improving health care quality and the emergence of SARS, the
potential for bioterrorism and concern about a flu epidemic, infection control
is very important."
Industry experts say that hospital-acquired infections cost the nation
$7 billion annually. "Devoting more staff to infection control activities in
hospitals will reduce infections and have a significant clinical and financial
benefit, given that health care-associated infections have a significant
economic, social and clinical cost," Hitt said.
VHA's survey indicated:
-- Approximately one in three hospitals had less than the recommended
ratio of infection control staff to patient beds
-- Four areas consumed 64 percent of the infection control staff members'
time: surveillance (26 percent), communications/management issues
(14 percent), transmission prevention (12 percent) and education and
training (13 percent)
-- Surveillance was mostly frequently conducted monthly for catheter-
related bloodstream infections, catheter-related urinary tract
infections and ventilator-associated pneumonia, and less frequently
for antimicrobial use and resistance
-- The most common areas of focus for infection control teams were:
surgical infection prevention, hand hygiene, catheter-related
bloodstream infection and ventilator-associated pneumonia
-- The two biggest obstacles to performing better were insufficient
resources and lack of physician support.
VHA works with member organizations to establish peer networks that create
a context for members to share best practices around infection control.
"We educate members about operational issues, such as the importance of
using the right types of supplies for central venous catheter insertion, and
structural issues, such as formation of a dedicated IV team," Hitt said.
"Obviously, if hospitals can prevent infections in their patient populations,
they avoid the complications that threaten patient recovery, discharge
patients quicker and use fewer resources, both staff and supplies, in caring
for the patients."
Hitt estimates that costs for a single patient developing a hospital-
acquired infection costs the hospital and the U.S. health care system from
several thousand dollars to more than $50,000 per case. Hitt said that
reducing hospital-acquired infections by even 20 percent would save the health
care system approximately $1.4 billion annually. "By applying what we've
learned, that's a very realistic goal," said Hitt.
VHA Inc. is a national cooperative of leading not-for-profit health care
organizations that work together to improve the health of the communities they
serve. Through the cooperative, members benefit from resources to help them
identify, integrate and implement best practices to improve clinical,
operational and financial performance. As a cooperative, VHA distributes
income annually to members based on their participation. Based in Irving,
Texas, with 18 offices across the U.S., VHA was named one of the "100 Best
Companies to Work For" by Fortune in January 2004, for the fifth year in a
row. For more information, go to http://www.vha.com .
SOURCE VHA Inc.