Prevention Could Reduce Billions Spent to Treat Hospital-Acquired Infections

Five major hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) cost about $9,800,000,000 annually, according to new research by Harvard researchers. The study, published September 2 in the Journal of American Medical Association: Internal Medicine, indicates there could be substantial savings by focusing on preventative measures. 

The five infections – in order of their contribution to the overall annual costs – are: 

  • surgical site infections (33.7 percent);
  • ventilator-associated pneumonia (31.6 percent);
  • central line-associated bloodstream infection (18.9 percent);
  • C. difficile infections (15.4 percent); and
  • catheter-associated urinary tract infections (<1 percent).

Here’s a breakdown of average costs per case by type of HAI: 

  • surgical site infections – $20,785;
  • ventilator-associated pneumonia – $40,144;
  • central-line associated bloodstream infection – $45,814;
  • C. difficile infections – $11,285; and
  • catheter-associated urinary tract infections – $896.

Surgical site infections were the most common infections, according to the study. C. difficileinfections were the second-most common type of HAI. The researchers performed a meta-analysis of studies from 1986 through 2013 to estimate costs and used the Center for Disease Contol’s National Healthcare Safety Network to estimate incidence rates.

Liability for Injuries or Death Caused by a Hospital-Acquired Infection 

Prevention measures can help reduce incidence HAIs. But not all infections are preventable. Nor are they necessarily the hospital staff’s fault. Patients would need to prove that they received substandard care that caused their infections.

For instance, if the environment was unsterile (dirty equipment) or if the hospital did not implement measures to prevent spread of infection, the hospital may be negligent. Staff that demonstrates poor hygiene by failure to wash their hands is another example of unreasonable care.

To learn if a member of the medical staff and/or the hospital can be held liable for injuries or death as a result of a hospital-acquired infection, seek legal counsel. An attorney at Gacovino, Lake & Associates can help.

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