Hospital-specific infection rates are increasingly used in quality reporting and as a guide for consumers, but variations in the way that organizations use infection-surveillance definitions could affect the validity of the data, according to a study in the Nov. 10 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Study notes threat to infection data's validity
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Healthcare Safety Network, or NHSN, is a Web-based surveillance program that uses hospital-reported data to track rates of healthcare-associated infections. The network relies on standardized definitions and protocols, which officials tout as critical components of effective measurement.
But when researchers evaluated surveillance of central line-associated bloodstream infections in four medical centers, they found that infection preventionists applied NHSN definitions in very different ways.
“Inconsistent surveillance practice can have a significant effect on the relative ranking of hospitals, which threatens the validity of the metric used by both funding agencies and the public to compare hospitals,” the authors said in a news release. They also called for more testing of surveillance measures to ensure they are reliable.
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