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Upcoming changes to federal reporting on hospital infection rates could keep patients uninformed about the safety of their healthcare facility. Dangerous infections such as MRSA affect one in 25 patients every day and can quickly lead to long term injury or death without the correct care. Patient safety advocate The Leapfrog Group has issued a call to action for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to keep transparency in hospital reporting by not decreasing its public reporting requirements as outlined in their FY 2019 Hospital Inpatient PPS proposed rule.

 

A recently published article by USA Today states that the complex CMS legislation “could halt the public disclosure of the ‘super bug’ MRSA, post-operative sepsis and surgical site infections, as well as accidents and injuries ranging from bedsores to respiratory failure after surgery.” Currently, the CMS provides this information through its Hospital Compare online research feature.

The proposed rule comes at a time when Leapfrog Group’s Hospital Survey has found that fewer and fewer healthcare facilities can claim zero hospital-acquired infections. This has not always been the case. In 2015, 25 percent of the nearly 2,000 hospitals that responded to the Leapfrog survey reported zero central line-associated bloodstream infections. In 2017, that number dropped to 13 percent. MRSA and catheter-associated urinary tract infections saw a similar drop in reported zero infections.

As I wrote in an earlier blog, this trend is troubling when you consider that more than 600,000 patients a year contract a hospital-acquired infection. With many cases quickly progressing to a life-threatening level, it’s no wonder that such infections are a leading cause of death in America.

The Leapfrog group points out that removing current measures from the standard Inpatient Quality Reporting Program (IQR) would not only reduce patient transparency, but it would also diminish hospital accountability—as healthcare centers are currently penalized for reported errors and infections. Lessening the amount of reporting does little more than reduce administrative efforts while significantly compromising the credibility of a valuable metric, says the not-for-profit charged with improving the safety and quality of our healthcare system. “Infection and other safety measures should be included in all payment programs, because quality and cost-effectiveness are nullified when safety is absent, continues the Leapfrog statement, “No hospital should be paid a reward for excellence if they have a high preventable infection rate.”

Ultimately, it’s critical for patients to research a local hospital’s record before being admitted for treatment. However, the CMS’s Hospital Compare website is one of the few open sources available to consumers when comparing hospital infection rates. Any legislation that curtails a consumer’s ability to retrieve such important information is a step in the wrong direction.

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