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Houston: payment policy doesn't cut two preventable infections

Houston readers may be interested to know that a policy implemented by Medicare that was designed to force hospitals to lower their infection rates has not had any effect. Infections in hospitals are a growing concern that could lead to many wrongful death cases.

The research was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The policy began in 2008, when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began denying additional payments to hospitals in cases where the patient's health worsened as a result of a bloodstream infection or urinary tract infection. These infections are associated with the use of central lines or catheters.

The researchers compared the rates of infections targeted by the Medicare policy with infections that were associated with a type of pneumonia not affected by the policy. Ultimately, the denial of additional payments did not further reduce the targeted infection rates. One researcher believes that there were already campaigns in place to lower infection rates, and that because of them, the policy didn't have the effect it could have had those campaigns not been in place.

The issue of hospitalized patients who get an infection has been a growing concern. In fact, there is an estimate that about one in 20 patients in hospitals gets an infection. This results in about $33 billion in additional costs every year.

Preventable infections are also a concern for patient's lives. If a patient dies from an infection that should have been prevented by a health care provider, the hospital could be liable for the patient's death under the legal theory of wrongful death. The patient's family could be entitled to compensation as a result of the hospital's negligence.

Source: NBC News, "Denying payments for some hospital infections doesn't cut rates, study finds," Julie Appleby, Oct. 11, 2012

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