Study: Hospitals Making A Killing On Hospital Infections

220px-ICU_IV_1I have long been amazed by the rate of hospital injuries from preventable bloodstream infections. While there have been a few lawsuits, hospitals appear to have avoided liability for these preventable illnesses. Now, a study in the American Journal of Medical Quality suggests that the situation may be worse than anticipated. Not only is that not a strong litigation deterrent (my view), but this study says that hospitals are actually making a killing by making patients sick. 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. Here is the most amazing fact: hospitals earn nearly nine times more for treating infected patients.

It is insurance companies who end up getting hit with the bill as well as patients, of course. This is not to mention those patients who become gravely ill or die from this preventable illness.

Private insurers pay the most for patient stays complicated by CLABSIs — roughly $400,000 per hospital stay. That fact could add pressure to hospitals to act reasonably in avoidance of such illness. Currently, there is a surprisingly high economic incentive not to avoid such illness, even if the doctors are morally bound to do so.

The CLABSI infections occur when thin plastic tubes, or central lines, are placed in ICU patients. Each year roughly 80,000 patients with central lines become infected. Now consider that hospital’s average profit margin for treating an infected patient was $54,906 in comparison to an uninfected patient of just $6,506. You do the math. That is a huge amount of income.

Worse yet, the failure to avoid the contamination kills 28,000 people a year. Simple checklists at hospitals have been shown to sharply decrease such contamination. In torts, we often use the Hand formula to determine negligence: B < PL. B stands for burden; P stands for probability, and L stands for loss. When the B is lower than the PL, negligence is generally present. In this case, the B would seem low while both the P and L are high. Normally, that would result in not just negligence but potential punitive damages.

Tens of thousands of people are dying from this preventable illness but relatively little has been done by the government to force new measures or accountability. This is why litigation is sometimes the most direct way to deterring negligence and giving an incentive to take precautionary measures in environments like hospitals.

Source: Hopkins

30 thoughts on “Study: Hospitals Making A Killing On Hospital Infections”

  1. If you are not sick when you walk in, you probably will be if you can walk out. More people die each year due to medical malpractice than in traffic accidents (over 90K).

  2. Yes, treatment is very often the route taken by health practitioners rather than prevention. Some practitioners claim that patients/clients will not take advice and therefore don’t even bother recommending it anymore, generalizing all individuals on the basis of early associations. Of course many of these same health practitioners do not follow prevention advice – being overweight, mostly sedentary, high meat eaters, frequent alcohol imbibers, etc.

    As for hospital-acquired infections, these have been a danger of such venues for centuries; the routes and bacteria types have changed/increased while the danger has not decreased with advancements in science. The major method of prevention of such infections is by the individual making use of health degeneration/disorder/disease prevention measures and preventing “accidents”, thereby greatly minimizing the need for being in any hospitals.

  3. It is because of stories like this and my total distrust of the hygeine standards of the medical fraternity that I will not donate blood. No, I do not want to contract an infection as a result of the potential lack of sterility involved in the process of extracting blood.

    Think about that next time you are asked to donate blood because you are most likely not indemnified against injury and you certainly do not want to get a nasty infection.

    Just having a quick skim over some of the anecdotes here confirms my concerns.

    Nothing in this story surprises me in the least. There is always more money in treating medical conditions than preventing them or having a quick and effective cure available. Just look at the huge treatment industry around cancer for one. A massive money spinner world wide. As for cancer reasearch……’s the biggest con game in the medical industry and it’s been going for over 50 years with little result. No need to wonder why? The best they can come up with is – do not smoke – and in the meantime the big money comes rolling in to all those in the treatment industry and you can be sure this is how it will continue indefinitely.

  4. Here is a relevant song from Randy Newman:

    Doctor Doctor! Why you say?
    How bout lettin me out today?
    Aint no reason fur me to stay..
    Cause everybodies far away..

    Get me back on my feet again!
    Back on my feet again!
    Open the door..
    Set me free!
    Get me back on my feet again…. [piano ] dunta dunta da

    Of course this Randy Newman song was about a guy locked up in a nuthouse. But after viewing this topic today I would say that anyone who goes into any U.S. hospital is nuts. Doctor, Doctor, what have ya to say?

  5. My wife, who is an RN, tells me that patients who come down with bedsores after a hospital stay result in non-payment by medicaid / medicare due to the negligence of the hospital. Maybe a non-payment for hospital caused infections might provide sufficient motivation.

  6. Hospitals: here is the key: ho spitals. They are enclaves of Pirate Territories. Do not go in. Fly over and flush.

  7. Some medical professionals have a different take on it, like some people have a different take on the rose colored glasses of exceptionalism:

    If a Jumbo Jet crashed and killed 280 people everyday … 365 days a year … year after year … would you be concerned about flying??

    Would you question the Federal Aviation Administration? Would you demand answers??

    Think about it! …Sounds Ridiculous??!! … people maimed and disabled every year … year after year from modern medicine … would you believe it??

    Well these may be my words … but read the following articles from the most respected medical journals and institutions (Journal of the American Medical Association, Harvard University, Centers for Disease Control, British medical journal The Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine and national news (New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, US World Report) and you be the judge … the more frightening number is that doctors are the third leading cause of death in this country, killing nearly a quarter million people a year.

    (Terrorism We Can Believe In? – 2, quoting a medical professional). “Terrorism” is not how many people are killed, maimed, or destroyed.

    Terrorism is “not believing in who does the killing” … if you like the guy who buries the mistakes, that is “the best medical profession in the world.”

    It is utterly hilarious!

    I am sure Shakespeare would have a stiffie about now, tingling in his legs, like Tweetie Mathews, just to be able to write a play about this exceptional medical profession in the sky.

  8. Well said Patric. Our health services can be the best in the world, if you can afford them.

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