According to a recent federal report, hospital acquired conditions (HACs) have leveled off after several years of decline. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ, part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services) issued the report, detailing its findings that avoidable HACs have been in steady decline since 2010, but hit a plateau in 2013.
Last year, there were approximately four million hospital acquired infections—this means that 12 out of every 100 hospital visits resulted in an avoidable injury. The study found that the most common complications were bedsores, falls and adverse reactions to drugs used to treat diabetes and kidney damage.
From 2010 to 2013, the likelihood of acquiring an avoidable illness while in a hospital decreased by 17 percent. However, there was no improvement between 2013 and 2014. The results of this study indicate that some improvements in patient safety are effective. However, it is clear that it is becoming more difficult for hospitals to further reduce the odds of hospital acquired infections.
The 2010 federal health law created many patient safety initiatives, as the Obama administration has sought to lower the rates of HACs. Specifically, the law includes Medicare penalties for poor-performing hospitals, use of electronic records to help track patient care and prevent errors, and research grants to identify how to address various types of problems.
Although infections from intravenous central lines, urinary catheters and surgical site infections dropped dramatically, hospitals have not reduced the numbers of falls or pneumonia cases in patients who require mechanical ventilators. Dr. Patrick Conway, chief medical officer for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, has stated that hospitals may have trouble improving these numbers. Because unstable patients need to mobilize to strengthen their legs, some fall incidents may be inevitable.
Although in general, HACs leveled off from 2013 to 2014, a few conditions became more prevalent. MRSA infections (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria) increased by 55 percent to an estimated 17,000 incidents in 2014. Also, there was a 25 percent increase in the number of times a catheter punctured a femoral artery during an angiography.