Improperly used IV lines are responsible for 20 percent of hospital-acquired infections. An estimated 27,000 people fell victim to central line infections in 2015. One in four patients who develop these infections die. Many hospitals have reduced rates of central line infections by 50 percent since 2008. However, a new study released by Consumer Reports shows teaching hospitals have not reduced rates of these infections.
The findings are surprising because teaching hospitals have a reputation for being “the best of the best” for receiving treatment. This new report is also surprising because hospitals have financial incentives for preventing central line infections. Under provisions in the Affordable Care Act, hospitals can lose Medicare payments for having high infection rates.
Consumer Reports’ study has alarming patient safety implications. Central line infections are too deadly for hospitals to ignore.
Can Hospitals Prevent Central Line Infections?
Hospitals that did well on the Consumer Reports study had guidelines in place to prevent central line infections, including the following:
- Hospitals should use IVs only on patients that need them. Physicians can create lists of patients who have the most need for IVs. By using fewer IVs, hospitals can reduce central line infection rates.
- Hospitals with fewer central line infections treated entry sites with chlorhexidine, an antiseptic.
- Hospitals with fewer of these infections had strict staff hand sanitation requirements. More rooms used soap and hand sanitizer dispensers. In addition, hospitals created undercover teams to discover and report staff members who did not wash their hands before visiting with patients. Staff members knew about these secret teams and adjusted their behavior accordingly.
One hospital, Share Medical Center, went 21 months without a patient succumbing to a central line infection. It shows that by adopting certain policies, hospitals can reduce central line infection rates and protect patients.
Shapiro Law Group has more than three decades of experience defending patients and family members who have been harmed by medical malpractice.