Denise Cardo, MD
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is commonly perceived as the federal germ detective agency that investigates disease outbreaks, and keeps statistics on national trends in illnesses and injuries such as STD rates and bicycle accidents.
But to healthcare providers it might seem that the agency's role has quietly morphed into one with much more influence on how care should be delivered in hospitals, surgical centers, and even physician's practices.
Every few weeks it seems, the agency announces another campaign, research project, or program designed to define and improve quality of care.
Now, in addition to chasing emerging infections throughout the country, the CDC is trying to prevent healthcare settings from causing avoidable harm.
Just this year, the agency has announced campaigns and published papers on the need for more careful use of antibiotics, for faster recognition and treatment of sepsis, for more careful insulin prescribing and it expanded its One & Only campaign, to promote injection safety practices such as single-use of syringes, needles, vials in healthcare settings.
These new or enhanced programs come as the CDC's National Healthcare Safety Network or NHSN, has grown to become the nation's largest nosocomial tracking system. Reporting to NHSN is required by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to track five types of hospital-acquired infections: central line bloodstream, catheter-associated urinary tract, C. difficile, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and surgical site.