Hospitals Vastly Underreport Infections Contracted In-House

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A recent finding by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that hospital-acquired infections had declined nationally in 2010 has been undercut by a California review of 100 hospitals that found up to one-third of cases were not reported.  

The Center for Health Care Quality in the California Department of Public Health looked at infections related to central lines—catheters near the heart—and difficult-to-treat germs that can be particularly hard on the fragile and elderly. Results for individual hospitals were not made available and only one-fourth of the state’s 400 hospitals were visited.  

Healthcare-associated infections are the most common type of hospital care complication, affecting 1 out of every 20 patients. But the problems from infection extend to outpatient surgery centers, dialysis centers, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and community clinics.

A national effort to monitor these problems is complicated by a self-reporting regimen that is still in development and not backed up by independent fact-checking. Other states have also noted problems. Colorado officials reported in January that 34% of central-line infections were missed by hospitals and Connecticut found underreporting of half its central-line infections.

Consumers Union Safe Patient Project Director Lisa McGiffert voiced suspicion that the infection reporting program in California, which is funded by fees levied on hospitals, wouldn’t be successful until enough money is available to monitor the monitors.

“The CDC says the rates are going down significantly—let’s be sure that’s really happening,” she said.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Review Finds Hospital-Acquired Infections Went Unreported (by Christina Jewett, The Bay Citizen)

Using NHSN Data Validation for Improved HAI Surveillance and Prevention (California Department of Public Health) (pdf)

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