Sept. 3—Infections most frequently acquired in healthcare settings cost at least $10 billion annually, according to new research.

A study published by JAMA Internal Medicine estimated five major healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) cost $9.8 billion each year. Surgical site infections cost the most.

The findings were based on data from the National Healthcare Safety Network of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"As one of the most common sources of preventable harm, HAIs represent a major threat to patient safety," the authors wrote. "The purpose of this study was to generate estimates of the costs associated with the most significant and targetable HAIs."

The study found that central line-associated bloodstream infections were the most expensive, costing $45,814 per case. The next most expensive infections were ventilator-associated pneumonia ($40,144), surgical site infections ($20,785), Clostridium difficile infections ($11,285), and catheter-associated urinary tract infections ($896).

"While quality improvement initiatives have decreased HAI incidence and costs, much more remains to be done," wrote the authors. "As hospitals realize savings from prevention of these complications under payment reforms, they may be more likely to invest in such strategies." 

Heightened Focus on Reducing HAIs

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) concluded that in 2002, one in every 20 hospitalized patients developed an HAI, with costs totaling up to $33 billion dollars. A 2011 study concluded that the 1.7 million reported HAIs resulted in an estimated 99,000 deaths in that year.

Public and private payers have launched a growing number of initiatives to spur hospitals and other providers to reduce the incidence of infections contracted by patients receiving treatment for other conditions. For instance, in October 2008 Medicare launched a high-profile policy to cut payments for treatment associated with certain HAIs. However, a 2012 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found the payment change on bloodstream and urinary-tract infections related to catheters had no measurable impact on the infections, which have been generally decreasing.

Still, the number and type of anti-infection effects are increasing. For instance, Medicare will begin financially penalizing hospitals in FY2015 that have the highest rates of certain "hospital-acquired conditions."

Publication Date: Tuesday, September 03, 2013