Patients who go to the hospital do not plan to get sicker while they are there. But it still happens all the time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 1 out of every 25 patients who enter a hospital contracts a healthcare-associated infection. Tragically, most of these infections are preventable.
In addition to their toll on human lives, these infections represent a heavy financial burden for hospitals as well. As insurers and federal healthcare programs will no longer reimburse for the additional costs of a preventable infection, hospitals must foot the bill for tens of thousands of dollars of care related to each HAI.
There also are intangibles that might not show up immediately on an income statement, but nonetheless have long-term financial consequences. These include negative publicity, which can hurt referrals and result in a loss of community trust. The facility's accreditation status can take a hit. And the hospital could lose market share to facilities that report fewer infections.
Hospitals have made great strides in reducing infections, but their incidence is still far too high, and their costs must remain a top priority for CEOs and chief financial officers. More than half of HAIs—as many as 70%—are preventable with appropriate infection prevention and control measures.