Health Department Issues First Hospital Infection Report

ALBANY, N.Y. (July 8, 2008) – New York hospitals have lower rates of central-line infections in pediatric and coronary intensive care units than the rest of the nation but higher rates in surgical intensive care units, the New York State Department of Health announced in a new report today.

New York's first annual report on hospital-acquired infections, as required under Chapter 284 for the Laws of 2005, meets the first-year mandate that the Department of Health develop measurements of certain hospital-acquired infections that factor in patient health risks as well as the number and type of high-risk procedures each hospital performs.

By law, this initial report containing 2007 data reflects statewide trends and does not identify infection rates by hospital, although the department has provided each hospital with its own rates and will continue to work with New York providers to lower infection risks. Beginning in 2009, using data collected in 2008, the department will publicly identify each hospital by name along with its infection rates by selected interventions and surgical procedures.

Hospital-acquired infections have received increased attention from consumers and the health care industry over the past few years. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated there were 1.7 million health care-associated infections in 2002, with 99,000 deaths from those infections. Other investigators have estimated the annual costs associated with these infections to be $4.5 billion to $5.7 billion.

Since the state law was signed in 2005, the Department of Health has worked with hospitals statewide to develop a reporting tool; train hospitals on its use; standardize definitions, methods of surveillance and reporting; audit and validate the hospitals' infection data; and modify the system to ensure that the hospital-specific infection rates would be fair, accurate and reliable.

"While New York State's medical facilities are among the best in the world, we can never be too careful in ensuring the safety and well-being of patients," said Governor Paterson. "By monitoring hospitals, reporting on instances of infection, and taking steps to prevent those instances, patients of New York's hospitals will have greater access to vital information. I thank Commissioner Daines and the New York State Department of Health for providing this report to the public, which will bring significant advancements in improving the quality of care for all New Yorkers."

"We have developed a tool that will help New York hospitals address the fundamental problem of patients who develop infections as a result of their surgery and treatment," State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., said. "We have done more than other states to make sure our reporting system captures useful data. Monitoring infections just to create a report won't solve the problem. The state is working with hospitals to identify risk factors for infection and interventions to reduce those risks."

Today's report also outlines eight projects funded by the Department of Health designed to train infection control practitioners and to design, implement and evaluate prevention strategies.

"We are pleased that New York has a much lower infection rate than the nation as a whole for cardiac and pediatric intensive care patients," Commissioner Daines said. "Colon surgery patients had only an average risk of infection. We did find a lower infection rate for central line use in New York City hospitals than upstate hospitals, but we believe that is attributable to a collaborative effort among a number of hospitals, the United Hospital Fund, and the Greater New York Hospital Association to combat infection. The Department of Health continues to be committed to the reduction and elimination of all hospital-associated infections."

Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, Chairman of the Assembly Health Committee and sponsor of the original legislation, said, "Letting hospitals know how their infection control rates compare with other hospitals will help them know where they need improvement. Letting consumers know will help them make better choices and help prod hospitals to do better. We set up the law to have the Health Department do a test run of the 'report card' program to make sure it works properly. It's important that it is moving forward."

Senator Kemp Hannon, Chairman of the Senate Health Committee, said, "This first report emphasizes two key points. First, that New York is setting the nationwide standard for compiling and reporting this important information on hospital-acquired infections. Second, that the rates of infection for cardiac and pediatric ICU patients are lower than the nation's. The protection of New York's patients is a priority of mine. That is why I worked with the Health Department and the Assembly to mandate this reporting process. It will help us identify where we have weaknesses and what we need to do to improve on them. This report, and its subsequent reports, will enable hospitals to track infection rates, address any problems within their facilities, and work toward our goal of eradicating hospital-acquired infections. People go to hospitals to be cured and recover. This reporting process will put us on track to make sure more and more patients have exactly that experience."

Arthur A. Levin, M.P.H., Director of the Center for Medical Consumers and a member of the Technical Advisory Workgroup for the hospital-acquired infection project, said, "I know everyone is anxious to see next year's report, which will identify hospitals by name. But this initial 'anonymous' year was essential to make sure that the data each hospital reports is complete, comparable, and accurately reflects the state of infection control within each institution. This year's report does show that New York's hospitals have had some laudable success in their efforts to make patients safer – but it also tells us there is still much work to do."

Brian Koll, M.D., Chief of Infection Control for Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan and a member of the Technical Advisory Workgroup, said, "The Department's decisions and actions have fostered a commitment to prevention."

Terri A. Straub, R.N., M.B.A., Vice President of Quality and Patient Safety for GNYHA and a member of the Technical Advisory Workgroup, said, "This important, timely report is another example of the state's thoughtful, visionary approach to improving patient outcomes. New York's hospitals share DOH's goal of reducing – and eventually eliminating – all hospital-acquired infections."

Sean Cavanaugh, Director of Health Care Finance at United Hospital Fund, said, "We at the United Hospital Fund are thrilled to be partnering with the Greater New York Hospital Association and 60 New York metro area hospitals to improve health care quality and patient safety on several fronts, including tackling certain hospital-acquired infections. We have shared with hospitals the proven methods to reduce infections, facilitated their collaboration to promote best practices, conducted on-site visits to promote adherence, involved senior leadership to generate institutional support, and mandated the sharing of data and results to allow for rigorous measurement. While we haven't completely eliminated these infections, there are a lot of people walking around New York today who simply never got that infection that might have otherwise threatened their lives."

The State Health Department and its Technical Advisory Workgroup determined that for the 2007 pilot year, the reporting system would track central line-associated blood stream infections in critical care unit patients, and surgical site infections associated with colon and coronary artery bypass graft procedures. That full report, "New York State Hospital-Acquired Infection Reporting System Pilot Year – 2007" is available at: http://www.nyhealth.gov/nysdoh/hospital/reports/hospital_acquired_infections/