A few days ago I wrote about the cost to hospitals of letting their patients acquire an infection. Prior to finding that report, I had always kind of assumed (yeah, I know) that patients who got sicker from getting an infection while in the hospital wouldn’t financially affect a hospital one way or the other — afterall, someone has to pay for the patient’s care. The insurance company or medicare or the patient would have to pay for the extended stay and additional costs.
I was wrong, though — and the report from APIC (Association for Professionals in Infection Control) spelled out very clearly that hospitals in reality take a major financial hit when a patient acquires an infection.
Why is this important? Why do I care if there is a negative hit to the hospital balance book?
Because I believe in the forces of capitalism, and the power of the almighty dollar, as having the ability to turn around infection rates when their source has to pay for it. As hospital administrators (and shareholders when they factor in) realize that costs will go down, and profits will go up, once infections are controlled (REALLY controlled), then they will do what is necessary to stop their spread.
Put another way, when hospital administrators realize that costs go up, and therefore profits go down when they ignore the infection problem, then realize the major negative impact on their bottom line, THEN they will pay attention. Otherwise? They honestly don’t care.
This ties in to the concept of infection rate reporting. Across the country, states are passing laws to require hospitals to publicize their HAI rates. Once that information becomes public, then we patients are able to choose which hospitals we want to do business with, either for our own care, or our loved ones’ care. Hospitals with higher infection rates will find patients choosing to go to the hospitals with lower infection rates — and yes — they will take a financial hit. Once they understand what the cost is in loss of patients X amount per patient X a year of lost patients? Yup — they’ll do what they can to clean up the spread of these infections.
I sent the blog link mentioned above to my colleague Betsy McCaughey of RID (Reduce Infection Deaths). While she found the report interesting, she reported to me that the basics of the report are quite good — but in fact — the costs and statistics are quite old. So — get this (sit down!) — the actual cost of HAIs to hospitals in this country is:
I can’t fathom that figure. Hospitals must grapple with it. But as is always true, the wheels of change will turn slowly, and in the meantime, patients are getting sicker and dying in hospitals every day.
I’ve sent you to the RID suggestions for staying safe in the hospital — so here’s that link again.
I’ve sent you to the Consumer’s Union Stop Infection campaign, too. This is where you can learn if your state has the right legislation in place, and if not, you can help that campaign.
And my final recommendation for today is to be vigilant. If you know you’re going to need a hospital stay — do your due diligence, learn which hospitals will keep you safer, and make your smart choice based on that info.
Your best defense is a good offense. Be prepared.
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