Can your hospital afford a five million dollar reduction in revenues this year?  You’ve got really deep pockets if you can.  That’s what a hospital with 50 million dollars in annual Medicare inpatient revenue would be looking at with the new payment reforms and un-reimbursable extended stays associated with Healthcare Acquired Infections(HAIs).  That’s this year.  Next year it could be more.  And it doesn’t include the cost of Medicaid and private payer action, nor any litigation you may face related to an HAI.  And we all know how lawsuit crazy people are becoming.

You think your hospital is spic and span, clean and shiny, thus infection free.  Think again!  Infection in America’s hospitals is far form under control.  Instead, with continued problems in managing surgical site and catheter related infections and the emergence of multi drug resistant super bugs, the problem may be getting worse.

Yes, progress has been made with some of the infections that have been tracked for a long time, there are others that remain a growing concern.  For example, Norovirus, a nasty bug that often causes food poisoning and gastroenteritis, is the fastest-growing infection and was responsible for nearly twenty percent of infection outbreaks and 65 percent of unit closures in U.S. hospitals during a two-year period, according to a study published in the February 2012 issue of the American Journal of Infection Control. 

So what are you doing to prevent this?  For some of you, government arm-twisting in the form of mandatory reporting has increased your attention on HAIs and infection prevention.  Maybe you’ve begun to think more critically about the role of and responsibilities of your hospital infection preventionists and epidemiologists.  Others of you are moving further forward in examining new ways to prevent infections.  These might include screening new patients, adopting surgical checklists, developing and implementing stronger isolation protocols and electronic monitoring of potential infections.

Let’s not forget that the goal is to discharge patients in a healthy condition.  And not to have them come back for further treatment.  Yet post-discharge infections are one of the leading causes of readmissions, especially for surgical patients.  Hospital patients with a positive clinical culture for MRSA, vancomycin-resistant enterococci or Clostridium difficile are 40 percent likelier to be readmitted within a year than other patients, said a study in the June issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.  So we have to prevent infection in the hospital, and outside by way of being sure our patients don’t take them home with them.

Performance based payment is here.  Now.  And here to stay.  Poor performance threatens one or two percentage points of your revenue.  But as they say, pennies make dollars, and those small percentage points can add up to big numbers very quickly.  We must be prepared to devote sufficient resources to set objectives for HAI reduction, and accurately measure our performance in meeting those objectives.

Objective – Stop infection!

Information for this blog was derived from an article appearing in Becker’s Hospital Review entitled A Revenue Leak Soon Turns to Flood: How Payment Penalties for High Infection Rates Could Drain Hospital Finances

Written by Adam A. Boris, CEO, ICNet Systems | March 15, 2013