CDC: Although Still Common, Hospital Infections Down

By  //  April 19, 2014

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Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in March shows the progress U.S. hospitals and health systems have made in enhancing safe practice, reducing infections and improving clinical outcomes.

According to the CDC report, the overall annual rate of hospital-acquired infections (HAI) has decreased from an estimated 1.7 million in 2002 to approximately 721,800 patients today, translating to a 1 in 25 chance of a patient, on any given day, getting an infection while hospitalized.

Source: National and State Healthcare Associated Infections: Progress Report, CDC, March 2014
Source: National and State Healthcare Associated Infections: Progress Report, CDC, March 2014

“As a nation, we’re moving in the right direction,” according to Dr. Michael Bell, deputy director of CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion.

The remaining 4% rate of infection shows that the issue is not minor, he told reporters in a telephone briefing. “Every number you see in the reports is a person” who has a preventable illness that can — and in some cases does — lead to death, Bell said.


Like most hospitals across the country, over the past five years hospitals in Florida have concentrated efforts to decrease HAIs, and the data suggests good progress.

According to the CDC, the National and State Healthcare-associated Infection Progress Report, which uses data reported to the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) to compare national and state HAI rates from 2008 to 2012, showed that HAI rates reported for Florida were as follows:

The above data is also publicly available online via Hospital Compare and Florida Health Finder.


Today, there are many quality improvement initiatives underway throughout Florida.

One of the largest initiatives involves 78 Florida hospitals, including all of the Health First hospitals and Indian River Medical Center, that are currently working through the Florida Hospital Association’s (FHA) partnership with the Health Research and Educational Trust (HRET) to support the Hospital Engagement Network (HEN), a program that has helped hospitals collaboratively develop the infrastructure, expertise and organizational culture that will support ongoing clinical improvements for years to come.

Through a clinical quality collaborative called the Florida Surgical Care Initiative (FSCI), the Florida Hospital Association and the American College of Surgeons have brought hospitals and surgeons together in a statewide effort to prevent surgical complications, reduce costs and improve the quality of care for surgical patients.

Hospitals participating in the early CLABSI and CAUTI programs administered through the FHA HEN reduced blood stream infections by 41 percent and reduced urinary tract infections by 37 percent. In total, participating hospitals saved an estimated 37 lives and avoided $16 million in costs.

Florida hospitals have also joined together in the largest statewide initiative focused on reducing complications of surgery. The Florida Surgical Care Initiative (FSCI) is a national model for quality improvement, with hospitals participating in the initial two-year pilot saving an estimated 89 lives and preventing 165 complications, resulting in healthcare cost savings of $6.67 million.

FSCI has been extended in association with the American College of Surgeons for at least three more years.


While one infection is too many, Dr. David Blumenthal, president of The Commonwealth Fund, a national philanthropy engaged in independent research on health and social policy issues, wrote in The Commonwealth Fund Blog, “This means more people alive and less money spent on complications. We can squabble endlessly about how to define value in health care, but deaths avoided and dollars saved? That’s the real thing.”

Dr. David Blumenthal, President of The Commonwealth Fund
Dr. David Blumenthal, President of The Commonwealth Fund

The CDC’s tracking of infection rates provides hospitals with benchmarks against which to measure their own progress, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has implemented new programs, established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), that penalize hospitals with high prevalence of HAIs.

This recent data is very promising. Dr. Blumenthal, affirming the need for government-supported scholarship to create sound evidence-based practice recommendations and collaborative private-sector leadership to ensure implementation of that practice, said, “But with so much to complain about in health care, we should take heart when science, government, and the private sector point the way toward a higher-performing health care system.”