Patient infections: a top-shelf medical industry concern

27 May 2015

So, you are admitted to a hospital in Southern California for a surgical procedure. Your operation is a success, but with one caveat: you contract an infection that was acquired attendant to that surgery.

That’s just bad luck, right?

That hypothetical is, well, anything but fictional in the world of medicine as it is practiced in California and elsewhere across the country.

Put another way: Any reader of this blog who thinks that infections visited upon patients receiving in-facility care are a singular anomaly in the medical industry needs to reevaluate that view after being introduced to some hard empirical evidence noting otherwise.

Like this, for instance. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about four out of every 100 infection-free patients admitted to a U.S. hospital don’t remain in that salutary state while receiving in-house care.

Although quick consideration of those odds might lead to the conclusion that maybe hospital infections aren’t really such a big deal, a bit of extrapolation might temper that conclusion.

To wit: When the total number of admitted patients nationally is considered, that four-percent figure takes on a whole new meaning. According to the CDC, more than 720,000 patients suffered in-facility infections in a recent year.

And about 75,000 of them died.

Those figures understandably make medical infections a top-rung industry concern, especially because the following of strict protocols and care standards is intimately tied to a curbed infection rate.

In other words, infections are less of a problem in hospitals where negligent practices and behaviors are controlled to a comparatively high degree.

Because of a strong belief that greater focus and effort on infection control must logically yield improved results, the CDC calls infection reduction one of the “winnable battles” that medical authorities face.

There is mixed evidence regarding that assessment. A recent study shows improvement in some areas, with dismal results in others.

And, tellingly, the CDC has concluded that infection-curbing goals enunciated in a national plan enacted in 2009 have not yet been realized.