A new report [PDF] from the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4) finds that among patients who acquired a healthcare-associated infection (HAI) in 2010, nearly 42% were readmitted within 30 days of discharge, 31.3% were readmitted specifically because of an infection or complication.
Among those without an HAI 16% were readmitted.
That, said PHC4 Executive Director Joe Martin, shows that the difference between what happens when you get an infection and when you don't is dramatic. It affects quality of life and ultimately, the rate of readmission affects health care costs.
"The average Medicare hospital payment for patients who acquired an infection was over $21,000," said Martin. "That's an average. Compared to those who did not [acquire an infection] it was about $6,700. So the federal government, through Medicare, is paying three times as much for cases that involve an infection or are associated with an infection than for those that don't."
The rate for Medicaid payments is higher, with the state paying five times the amount for patients with HAIs than for those without. The good news, said Martin, is that the problem is manageable and preventable through steps such as proper hand washing and using best practices for things such as inserting catheters and central lines in patients.
"Particularly in times when we are struggling with burgeoning costs these two public sector health care programs, it's very important to have all the appropriate steps in place to make sure we prevent the infections from occurring whenever possible," said Martin.
Of the 1,880,189 patients treated in Pennsylvania hospitals in 2010, 21,319, or 1.13% acquired an infection, down from 1.20% the previous year. The mortality rate for patients who contracted an HAI in 2010 was 9.1% down from 9.4% in 2009, the mortality rate for patients without an infection was 1.7%.
So, Martin said, the numbers are moving in the right direction, but more needs to be done.
Conditions with the highest percentage of HAIs were leukemia and lymphoma, respiratory failure in adults, abdominal hernia, and heart valve disorder.