Patients and institutions incur an annual cost of $9.8 billion due to
complications from hospital- born infections, an Israeli physician conducting
research in Boston recently uncovered.
Dr. Eyal Zimlichman of Sheba
Medical Center in Tel Hashomer conducted research at Boston’s Harvard University
Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital for three years in patient
He recently returned to the Tel Hashomer hospital to serve as its
deputy director-general in charge of quality and is equally concerned about
nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infections in Israel. The state comptroller
reported earlier this year that on an annual basis, 4,000 to 6,000 Israelis die
of complications from such infections and 40,000 – or 7 to 10 percent – of all
hospital patients are adversely affected. Zimlichman said the trend in the
United States is moving toward fewer nosocomial infections, but the tide has not
yet turned here.
“In fact, the Health Ministry is dealing with this field
more than before, but without investing funds specifically for this purpose and
hiring more personnel in the field of infection prevention, there will be no
change in direction here,” he explained.
Zimlichman recently published an
article on the subject of US nosocomial infections in JAMA Internal Medicine as
the head of a team of researchers that included eight others from Massachusetts
Pointing out that health-associated infections (HAIs) are
associated with high costs, the team wrote, “Better evaluation of the cost of
these infections could help providers and payers justify investing in
“As one of the most common sources of preventable harm,
health care-associated infections represent a major threat to patient safety,”
According to the research, on a per-case basis, infections
of the bloodstream connected to infusion in US hospitals were found to be the
most costly HAIs at $45,814 per patient, followed by ventilator-associated
pneumonia at $40,144, surgical site infections at $20,785, Clostridium difficile
infections (a bacteria affecting the delicate balance in the colon) at $11,285
and catheter-associated urinary tract infections at $896.
More than a
decade since the Institute of Medicine’s landmark report “To Err is Human”
brought patient safety to the fore, the article stated, “US hospitals remain
less safe than they should be. Hospital-acquired infections account for a large
proportion of the harms caused by health care and high rates of morbidity and
mortality, and costs.
We estimated that there are approximately 440,000
of these infections annually in the US in adult inpatients and that their annual
costs are $9.8 billion. Over a third of these costs are attributable to surgical
site infections, with a quarter due to ventilator-associated pneumonia and a
fifth to catheter-related bloodstream infection...
improvement initiatives have decreased HAI incidence and costs, much more
remains to be done. As hospitals realize savings from prevention of these
complications under payment reforms, they may be more likely to invest in such
strategies,” the study concludes.
The research was a meta-analysis of 26
major studies published in PubMed between 1986 and April 2013.