Johns Hopkins researchers report that hospitals may be reaping enormous income for patients whose hospital stays are complicated by preventable bloodstream infections contracted in their intensive care units.
In a small, new study, reported online in the American Journal of Medical Quality, the researchers found that an ICU patient who develops an avoidable central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI) costs nearly three times more to care for than a similar infection-free patient. Moreover, hospitals earn nearly nine times more for treating infected patients, who spend an average of 24 days in the hospital.
The researchers also found that private insurers, rather than Medicare and Medicaid, pay the most for patient stays complicated by CLABSIs roughly $400,000 per hospital stay suggesting that private insurers would gain the most financial benefit from working with hospitals to reduce infection rates.
"We have known that hospitals often profit from complications, even ones of their own making," says Peter J. Pronovost, M.D., Ph.D., senior vice president for patient safety for Johns Hopkins Medicine and one of the authors of the research. "What we did not know was by how much, and that private insurers are largely footing the bill."
"This study suggests that it is in the financial interest of private insurers to help hospitals find a way to improve patient safety and reduce the number of these preventable infections," says Johns Hopkins anesthesiology resident Eugene Hsu, M.D., M.B.A., the study's leader. "If the money spent on treating just one infection was spent on effectively implementing measures to prevent CLABSIs, insurers could save millions of dollars, and, more importantly, the needless suffering of patients would be reduced."
CLABSI infections occur when thin plastic tubes, or central lines, are placed in ICU patients to administer medication or fluids, obtain blood for tests, and di
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Johns Hopkins Medicine