Lawrence Memorial Hospital is among Kansas hospitals that are reporting a lower-than-average number of infections acquired on their premises.
LMH reported that in 2011 and 2012 its intensive care unit had no occurrences of the two major infections cited in a recent report from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
In 2011, KDHE began asking medical facilities across the state to begin submitting information about hospital-acquired infections — central line-associated bloodstream infections and catheter-associated urinary tract infections — as part of a national effort to track and reduce their occurrence. Patients at the more than 70 facilities in Kansas that reported the data, which represent nearly all of the ICU beds in the state, had 67 percent fewer central-line infections and 26 percent fewer catheter infections in 2011 compared with the national average from 2006 to 2008, the report found.
Medical facilities have in recent years made it a priority to cut down on the estimated 1.7 million infections Americans contract at hospitals annually. Those infections kill an estimated 100,000 people a year in this country, adding billions of dollars in increased costs to the health care system. The Affordable Care Act penalizes hospitals for infections that patients catch in their facilities by reducing certain Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements.
"Anything we can do to prevent infection occurrences is going to improve the patient's care, it's going to reduce costs," said Lawrence Memorial Hospital spokeswoman Janice Early. "It's been a major push for hospitals across the country and Kansas with this particular project."
LMH has recently implemented some new practices to cut down on the chance of infection. That starts and ends, in many cases, with simple hand-washing. Hand-sanitizing stations are set up around the hospital, while undercover observers routinely monitor whether employees are practicing good hand hygiene, Early said.
In addition, the hospital in June began using a portable disinfection device that destroys bacteria in rooms using ultraviolet radiation. LMH staff has also been using alcohol-containing caps to disinfect central lines.
Patients can reduce their own risk of infection by making sure they, and their providers, are practicing proper hand hygiene and disinfection techniques, Early added.