The findings were based on 2011 data from 183 U.S. hospitals and looked at a wide range of hospital infections. The most common included pneumonia, which accounted for 22%; surgical-site infections, accounting for another 22%; gastrointestinal infections represented 17%; urinary tract infections, 13%; and bloodstream infections, 10%.
It's not all bad news, Bell noted, citing a second report showing nationwide progress.
Between 2008 and 2001, there was a 44% decrease in central line-associated bloodstream infections and a 20% decrease in infections related to 10 surgical procedures, including colon surgery, cardiac surgery, hip and knee replacements, and abdominal and vaginal hysterectomies. Between 2011 and 2012, there was also a 4% decrease in hospital-acquired MRSA and a 2% decrease in hospital-onset C. difficile infections.
Though the declines are promising, Bell noted that everyone is likely to become a patient at some point, and looking at the results through that lens might paint a different picture.
“I don't want to lose sight of the fact that every number you see in the report is a person,” said Bell, noting that each of these individuals went to the hospital with the hopes of getting better.
And though most infections were decreasing nationwide, some, such as catheter associated urinary tract infections, have increased. There was also a “mixed picture” among states, where there was tremendous variability. One state might be at the bottom for one infection type, but might be leading the pack for another, Bell said. The CDC provides a state-by-state comparison within the report.
In a call to action, the agency says that preventing hospital infections is possible, but it will take a conscious effort by clinicians, healthcare facilities and systems, public health workers and quality improvement groups, among others, to make it happen.
That sentiment was shared this week during a session at the American College of Healthcare Executives meeting in Chicago. Leadership involvement is the key to making evidence-based changes in hospital systems a priority, conference speakers agreed.
Follow Sabriya Rice on Twitter: @MHSRice