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Hospitals Wise to Cut Spending on Infection Control? -- by Suzanne Delbanco, Ph.D.

7322389 Does it make sense to cut spending on infection control when certain hospital-associated infections are on the rise and pressure is mounting to curb such infections?  Logical or not, a new study released today by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control suggests that hospitals are cutting staff, resources and educational efforts.

Almost 2,000 infection preventionists responded to the 2009 APIC Economic Survey.  Of those, 41 percent said that their budgets had been cut in the last year and half, due primarily to the economic downturn.  Among those who experienced cuts, three-quarters lost training money, and half had cuts for infection prevention resources like technology, staff, and equipment.  One in three of the survey respondents say that cuts in resources and staffing have restricted their capacity to focus on infection prevention.  On a related note, one quarter say they have cut back on surveillance activities to detect, track and manage hospital-associated infections. 

While infection prevention is not a source of revenue, APIC points out it can help reduce costs significantly.  The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality estimates based on its Health Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) data that acquiring an infection with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) during a hospital stay can double a patient's length of stay and almost double the cost of the stay (from $7,600 to $14,000).  Perhaps hospitals will get a chance to see the return on investment for infection prevention more clearly when they reduce the investment and need to live with the financial consequences.

Suzanne Delbanco is President, Health Care Division, Arrowsight, Inc.


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