I’ll admit it. I was very skeptical when a link for a research report about the cost of hospital infections to hospitals — was sent to me. I’ve never typed these words out loud before, but I’ve always thought that one reasons hospitals ignored (didn’t try to alleviate) MRSA and other hospital-acquired-infections (HAIs) is because they could make more money from patients who got sicker and had to stay in their facilities longer. Made sense to me. I just had no way of demonstrating it.
So I read the report, and re-read it. And you know what? It makes sense. And the bottom line is — HAIs are a major hit to the pocket book of hospitals.
The report was issued by APIC, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology in February 2007. The stated goals of the report are to dispel the following myths (paraphrasing here):
- That HAIs are an expected byproduct of treating an older population with invasive techniques.
- That the additional cost of treating HAIs is offset by reimbursements from Medicare, insurance, etc — making them an income stream, or at least neutral for cost.
- That the number of HAIs is insignificant, so investing in reducing them isn’t worth the money.
And the bottom line? In a study of 1.69 million admitted patients in 77 hospitals, the COST TO THE HOSPITALS was $286 million — meaning MORE THAN $5000 PER PATIENT.
That’s what it cost the hospital! That came out of the bottom line! That’s not what it cost the patient, and it’s not what it cost to treat the patient. That’s only what it cost the hospital — in dollars. There is also (what they call) an opportunity cost. I remember this one from Economics 101 in college — “opportunity cost = opportunity lost” — and the opportunity lost to hospitals is 7.5 million patient-days nation wide. That means that there would be room for that many more patients in hospitals if the others didn’t acquire infections and have to stay so long.
Now this will really make you sick, too: The average cost of reimbursement per patient — meaning — the money that mostly came from Medicare and came out of YOUR POCKET AND MINE — $ 64,894.
And the cost to the patient? Remember, the great majority of those who acquire infections are the frail, elderly, surgical and catheterized patients. It may not cost them a lot more out of their individual pockets, but it certainly costs them in their health, and their ability to fight whatever was wrong with them prior to needing a hospital stay to begin with. And in the case of 100,000 patients each year — the cost is the ultimate — they will die.
A few suggestions and requests here:
If you know any of the hospital administrators where you live, share a copy of this report with them. Don’t forget — American Health Care is not about health or care. It’s about sickness and money. This should get their attention.
If you know you will be hospitalized, do yourself two favors. First, learn about hospital infection rates in your area (if possible — see “finally” below), and choose a hospital where you are less likely to acquire an infection. And second, follow all those good rules we’ve talked about before. Find them here: http://www.hospitalinfection.org/protectyourself.shtml
Finally — if your state doesn’t require hospitals to publicize their infection rates, then begin contacting your legislators and ask them to work on it. Find other MRSA-related posts in this blog to learn more about which states do, and don’t, require publication of infection rates.
Save your life. Save someone else’s life. Save our pocketbooks, too. Sounds win-win-win to me.
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