The collective cost of treating them may be as high as $3 billion nationally, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC reported bloodstream infections decreased by 58% between 2001 and 2009.
The Michigan program, developed at Johns Hopkins, includes the "cockpit-style" checklist for doctors and nurses to follow when placing a central-line catheter, and five basic steps from hand washing to avoiding placement in the groin area, where infection rates are higher. The program also promotes a "culture of safety," that includes science of safety education; training in identifying safety problems, implement solutions, and measure improvements; and empowering team members to question each other and stop procedures if safety is compromised.
Pronovost said much of the healthcare savings resulting from the initiative go to insurers — both public and private — who are spared the cost of treating these bloodstream infections and subsequent complications. Because of that, Pronovost said insurers should help hospitals implement and develop infection prevention and other quality improvement programs.
"Strategies to improve quality should be at the forefront of efforts to trim healthcare costs. Reducing preventable harm may be the least controversial way to save money and should definitely get more attention," he said.
The research was funded by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan, through the Michigan Hospital Association.