Nationwide, nearly 100,000 patients died from infections they caught during treatment.
With all the training and technology hospitals employ to care for patients, the best practice, said Dr. Kara Mascitti, is one that health care workers learned as children.
Wash your hands.
Mascitti, the director of health care epidemiology and infection prevention at St. Luke's Hospital and Health Network, says controlling infections at hospitals is primarily a prevention-first practice. "The key to infection prevention is back to basics," she said. "To be honest, something as simple as washing your hands both before and after seeing a patient is the most important thing you can do."
The focus on infection control, even with something as routine as hand-washing, is no small matter. In a report released Friday, the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council said 21,319 patients admitted to a Pennsylvania hospital in 2010 acquired an infection. These patients stayed in the hospital three times longer than patients without infections; were far more likely to be readmitted up to a month after their hospital stay; and were more than five times likely to die than patients without infections.
Nationwide, theU.S. Centers for Disease Control and Preventionestimate 1.7 million patients contract infections associated with health care and 99,000 of them die. All this naturally means far higher health care costs. An average Medicare in-patient stay in a Pennsylvania hospital cost $6,709, the report said. For patients who got an infection, the bill averaged $21,378. The good news is that infection rates fell close to 6 percent from 2009 to 2010, the report said.
"This report demonstrates that hospitals' continued efforts to prevent infections are working, even in the most complex and vulnerable patients, such as trauma and cancer patients," said Carolyn F. Scanlan president and CEO of The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania.