But C. difficile infections are emerging in importance for another reason. Starting Jan. 1, 2013, hospitals will be guided by a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services payment for reporting program for infections, with payment adjustments forthcoming with discharges starting Oct. 1, 2014.
Scores will be posted on CMS' Hospital Compare, and in time, it is expected that higher infection rates may result in Medicare reimbursement reductions. Additionally, CMS may add C. difficile to the list of healthcare-acquired conditions for which it will not pay for additional care required.
"When the public is better informed, patients are informed, and everyone is better off," McDonald said. "In the very near future, we'll have increased transparency and accountability about this infection."
Reducing Infection Rates
But even as the C. difficile problem spreads in healthcare settings, McDonald and Arias said they've learned from experiences of three state-run programs in Illinois, Massachusetts and New York, that cooperation can bring infection rates down.
The program involved 71 hospitals. "The pooled hospital-onset CDI rate across the three prevention programs declined 20%, from 9.3 per 10,000 patient-days during the early comparison period to 7.5 during the later comparison period," the report said. The state programs did this by using many of the strategies outlined in the new CDC recommendations.