HHS Will Spend $9 Million on Tracking ASC Infection Rates

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , November 10, 2009

HHS announced today that it is spending $9 million in federal stimulus money to help survey agencies in 43 states track healthcare-associated infections in ambulatory surgery centers and other outpatient venues.

During the next 12 months, surveyors in those 43 states will inspect approximately 1,300 ambulatory surgical centers, which represent one-third of the more than 3,800 non-accredited ASCs in the United States. The surveyors will use a new CMS survey process for ASCs that features an infection control tool developed in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a media release announcing the funding, HHS said the emphasis on reducing healthcare-acquired infections (HAI) in the outpatient setting is a reaction to the shifting of healthcare services away from hospitals and toward ambulatory care facilities, long-term care facilities, and free-standing specialty care sites. The number of ASCs participating in Medicare grew from about 3,600 in calendar year 2002 to 5,200 in early 2009, a 44% increase.

ASCs account for more than 43% of all same-day surgery in the United States, amounting to about 15 million procedures every year. HAI outbreaks in outpatient settings continue to occur, according to the CDC. In several ASC-related communicable disease outbreaks, failure to employ basic infection control practices were implicated, leading CMS to identify this as an area for additional oversight.

In the last fiscal year, 12 states volunteered to get a head start on this nationwide effort to reduce HAIs in stand-alone or same-day surgical centers by beginning to survey ASCs, using nearly $1 million in funds provided in the stimulus package.

CDC has also made $40 million available to state public health departments to create or expand state-based HAI prevention and surveillance efforts, and strengthen the public health workforce trained to prevent HAIs.

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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