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Consumer Reports Examines Hospital Safety

Posted at 5:30 PM, Jul 29, 2015

We trust hospitals to help make us well. What we don’t expect is to get sick in a hospital. But every year about 648,000 hospital patients develop infections during their stay and about 75,000 die.

Some of the most threatening infections are caused by C. diff and MRSA bacteria, which can live on surfaces for days and pass from hand to hand. And MRSA is resistant to some antibiotics. Consumer Reports found that while some hospitals have been successful at cutting their infection rates, many have not.

Consumer Reports analyzed hospital-acquired infection data for thousands of hospitals across the U.S., and rated hospitals on how well they prevented MRSA and C. diff infections, and the results are sobering.

Only 6 percent received top scores for preventing both infections, with some well-known hospitals having low ratings, including the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, and Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. To prevent those infections, hospitals and hospital staff must pay close attention to cleanliness.

Also essential is to avoid the overuse and misuse of antibiotics, which can wipe out patients’ good bacteria and let bad bacteria like C. diff run wild.

Most infections are preventable, and if hospitals were committed to deploying evidence-based practices that reduce infections, tens of thousands of lives could be saved each year. Some hospitals are able to keep their infection rates low. The best prevent infections by designating special staff to oversee the use of antibiotics and by following clear protocols on cleanliness.