Hospitals around the country have implemented new safety procedures and are reaping the benefits.
A study led by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in California found that it led to a reduction in catheter-related bloodstream infections and a substantial amount of cost savings.
These types of infections result in thousands of deaths each year and cost the U.S. health care system billions of dollars, according to the CDC. CMS now penalizes hospitals through its Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction Program for catheter-related bloodstream infections.
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The researchers evaluated data on catheter-related bloodstream infections at 113 hospitals published in the last decade. The research was focused on central venous catheters, also known as central lines, which are often used in ICUs.
In recent years, hospitals have introduced new safety procedures including checklists for attending staff, sterile gloves, covering catheters with antimicrobial dressings and checking catheters daily for signs of movement or infection. Some hospitals also offer training, equipment and supplies for safety purposes.
The data revealed that the safety interventions reduced the infection rate on average by 57 percent and generated net savings of $1.85 million for each site over the course of three years. The savings were a result of having to treat fewer patients with infections.
The federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that these safeguards led to a 49 percent reduction nationally in the rate of catheter-related bloodstream infections from 2010 to 2013.
The median cost of implementing the catheter safety programs in the hospitals studied was around $270,000 per site. For every $100,000 that was spent, the hospitals experienced an average of $315,000 in savings.
The savings were lower in hospitals that already had low infection rates, but the catheter safety programs still benefitted them.
"Due to the high cost of caring for patients when central-line infections develop, even sizable upfront investments in infection prevention can be associated with large net savings," Dr. Teryl Nuckols, director of the division of general internal medicine at Cedars-Sinai, said in a statement.