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Health-Care Related Infections Cost $9.8 Billion a Year, Study Finds

Update Date: Sep 03, 2013 01:40 PM EDT

Even though hospitals are supposed to be sterile and clean, the risk of infection is still one of the biggest problems doctors and patients deal with. Infections usually occur post surgery and can complicate a patient's recovery process. Not only are infections dangerous, they can be extremely costly. In a new study, researchers estimated that the annual medical cost of five of the major health care-associated infections (HAIs) is $9.8 billion.

For this study, the research team used data from 1986 through to April 2013 provided by published medical literature. They also utilized the incidence rates of HAIs from the National Healthcare Safety Network of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the team headed by Eyal Zimlichman, M.D., M.Sc., from Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA, HAIs have been tied to contributing to higher medical costs. If there were better prevention techniques, these costs could potentially be avoided.

"As one of the most common sources of preventable harm, health care-associated infections [HAIs] represent a major threat to patient safety," the authors note. "The purpose of this study was to generate estimates of the costs associated with the most significant and targetable HAIs."

According to the researchers, the leading HAI in overall costs is surgical site infections. On a case-to-case basis, the most costly HAI is the central line-associated bloodstream infections, costing $45,814. The second most costly HAI at $40,144 is the ventilator-associated pneumonia infection. This cost is followed by surgical site infections, which cost $20,785. The last two spots are filled by clostridium diffcile infection at $11,285 and catheter-associated urinary tract infections at &896.

The researchers noted that even though certain initiatives have helped lower the costs, more will need to be done to continue to lower the costs of HAIs. The report was published by JAMA Internal Medicine.

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