Contrary to CMS and Joint Commission programs implemented in 2017 to reduce them, incidents of hospital-acquired infections have risen for the past few years

Clinical laboratories and anatomic pathologists know that hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) can be deadly, not just for patients, but for their caregivers and families as well. Even one HAI is too many. Thus, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) required healthcare organizations to upgrade their antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) programs to meet CMS requirements and Joint Commission accreditation starting in 2017.

Nevertheless, a recent Leapfrog Group report indicates hospitals are finding it increasingly difficult to remove infections all together. This has many healthcare leaders concerned.

The report, which was analyzed by Castlight Health, states that the number of hospitals reporting zero infections has declined significantly since 2015, according to a news release. According to the Leapfrog Group’s report:

  • Two million people acquire HAIs every year;
  • 90,000 people die annually from HAIs;
  • HAI costs range from $1,000 to $50,000 depending on the infection.

Hospitals spend $28 to $45 billion annually on HAI costs, Healthcare Finance reported.

“I think it’s far too easy to let something slip, so it’s clear that there really needs to be a renewed focus on getting back to zero. We do still see some hospitals that are getting to zero, so it’s clearly possible,” Erica Mobley (above), Leapfrog Group’s Director of Operations, told Fierce Healthcare. (Photo copyright: LinkedIn.)

Regressing Instead of Progressing Toward Total HAI Elimination

Leapfrog Group’s report is based on 2017 hospital survey data submitted by 2,000 providers. The data indicates that in just two years the number of hospitals reporting zero HAIs dropped by up to 50%. The reported HAIs include:

The remaining infection measures studied by Leapfrog Group had less dramatic decreases over the same time period, according to Fierce Healthcare. Nevertheless, they are significant. They include:

  • Surgical site infections (SSI) following colon surgery: 19% zero infections compared to 23% previously;
  • Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) inpatient infections: 3% zero inpatient infections in 2017, compared to 5% in 2015.

Joint Commission Studies Antimicrobial Program Progress

Meanwhile, the Joint Commission acknowledged that implementation of antimicrobial stewardship programs by providers can be difficult. In “The Expanding Role of Antimicrobial Stewardship Programs in Hospitals in the United States: Lessons Learned from a Multisite Qualitative Study,” the accrediting organization released insights from interviews with 12 antimicrobial stewardship program leaders nationwide.

They published their study in “The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.” Three themes emerged from the interviews:

  • Hospitals have revised their antimicrobial programs, which originally operated on a “top-down” structure, to programs that include clinicians from throughout entire provider organizations;
  • Health information technology (HIT) can enable real-time opportunities to launch antimicrobial therapy and treat patients; and,
  • Some barriers exist in getting resources to integrate technology and analyze data.

“These programs used expansion of personnel to amplify the antimicrobial stewardship programs’ impact and integrated IT resources into daily workflow to improve efficiency,” the researchers wrote. “Hospital antimicrobial stewardship programs can reduce inappropriate antimicrobial use, length of stay, C. difficile infection, rates of resistant infections, and cost.”

What Do CMS and Joint Commission Expect?

According to Contagion, while the Joint Commission program is part of medication management, CMS places its requirements for the antimicrobial stewardship program under “infection prevention.”

CMS requirements for an antimicrobial stewardship program include:

  • Developing antimicrobial stewardship program policies and procedures;
  • Implementing hospital-wide efforts;
  • Involving antimicrobial stakeholders for focus on antimicrobial use and bacterial resistance;
  • Setting evidence-based antimicrobial use goals; and,
  • Reducing effects of antimicrobial use in areas of C. difficile infections and antibiotic resistance.

Leapfrog Group’s data about fewer hospitals reporting zero infections offers opportunities for hospital laboratory microbiology professionals to get involved with hospital-wide antimicrobial program teams and processes and help their hospitals progress back to zero HAIs. Clinical laboratories, both hospital-based and independent, also have opportunities to contribute to improving the antimicrobial stewardship efforts of the physicians who refer them specimens.

—Donna Marie Pocius

Related Information:

Troubling New Report on Hospital Infections Comes While Centers Medicare and Medicaid Services Considers Discontinuing Publicly Reporting Rates

Leapfrog Group: Healthcare-Associated Infections

Antimicrobial Stewardship Standards: A Comparison of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Joint Commission Requirements

Joint Commission: New Antimicrobial Stewardship Standard

Core Elements of Hospital Antibiotic Stewardship Programs

Number of Hospitals Achieving Zero Infections Drops

Hospitals Losing Ground on Effectively Preventing Infections with Dramatic Drop in Those Reporting Zero Infections

The Expanding Role of Antimicrobial Stewardship Programs in Hospitals in the United States: Lessons Learned from a Multi-Site Qualitative Study