Thirty-one major teaching hospitals appeared on Consumer Reports' latest list of lowest-performing hospitals, as measured by central-line bloodstream infections. The results were based on the publication's analysis of nearly 2,000 hospitals.
The rationale behind scrutinizing teaching hospitals is that they are educating the next generation of physicians, Doris Peter, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center, said in a statement. “We think it's critical to monitor them closely," she said. She called the results "very sobering."
Central lines are catheters inserted into a patient's vein that pump vital medications and fluids. But they can also easily lead to infections, including drug-resistant ones, and can spread them to vital organs. Every year, 650,000 patients acquire infections in hospitals, and 75,000 of them die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 5% of these are central-line infections. They are preventable, as a checklist developed in 2001 by Dr. Peter Pronovost demonstrated, and thus are useful to gauge hospitals' adherence to certain best practices and principles for patient safety.
That checklist, which reminded physicians to follow basic steps like washing their hands with soap, has been credited with helping to reduce the number of central-line-associated bloodstream infections from 43,000 ICU patients in 2001 to 18,000 in 2009.
In Consumer Reports' analysis, hospitals were scored on their performance from January 2011 through 2015. Some prominent names appeared on the list of hospitals that performed worst, such as Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles; Banner-University Medical Center Tucson (Ariz.); and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Jersey.
But teaching hospitals also appeared among the 32 top performers Consumer Reports named, like the University of Chicago Medical Center, Sentara Norfolk (Va.) General Hospital and the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle.
With its analysis, Consumer Reports also published an interactive online tool for people to check the performance of their local hospitals.