Hospitals are supposed to be places to go when you are in need of medical intervention in order to heal from illness or injury. Yet, hospitals can also be breeding grounds for various communicable diseases, diseases that can be avoided with improved hygiene and supervision among the health care providers.
In an emergency, we don’t always have the luxury to choose the hospital we want. But, when we are scheduling a non-emergency procedure, we have many factors to consider: where our doctor has privileges, what facility is convenient for friends and family, what the insurance implications of hospital decisions are.
Another factor you might want to consider in choosing a hospital is the safety record of the hospital in terms of hospital-borne infections. You should also be mindful of how many patients each nurse is required to care for; when this ratio is too high, infections are often the result as antibiotics get delayed, sources of infection are missed and supervision of sanitary conditions suffer.
There is good news and bad news.
The bad news is this: unlike 31 states and the District of Columbia, the state of Michigan does not require Michigan hospitals to report their infection rates to the public. Other states actually allow a comparison of these infection rates. Now there is a caveat: just because you can compare hospitals does not mean that you can judge a hospital solely by its infection rates. A small rural hospital may not have the exposure to certain infectious diseases that a large hospital that handles complicated cases and often admits sicker patients does.
The good news: the data is still available; you won’t find it on the hospital’s website, you won’t find it on a state of Michigan website, but you can find at least some information on the Medicare website entitled “Hospital Compare”. This information reports the experiences of Medicare patients, so this group is older than the nation at large, with possibly more pre-existing conditions, but it is the only data accessible to Michigan residents about their own hospitals.
Hospital Compare has data on 137 Michigan hospitals, many of which report no infections. The hospital-borne infections that Hospital Compare tracks include:
- Staphylococcus aureus (or MRSA)
- Central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI)
- Catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI)
- Surgical site infections from colon surgery
- Surgical site infections from hysterectomy
- Clostridium difficile (or C.diff)
When you go to medicare.gov/hospitalcompare, you will be asked either for the name of a hospital or for your location. You can then choose to compare hospitals.
The most important section of the website occurs when you click on a hospital’s profile. In the next screen, you can choose among lots of tabs: Medicare information, patient surveys, etc., but for our purposes, click on “Readmissions, complications and Deaths”. This tab will then give you even more data including readmission data and surgical complications. You will see a tab for “healthcare associated infections”. You will discover many highly reputable hospitals right here in Michigan with MRSA infections that are twice the national average!
It is not easy to track down hospital-borne infections, but it is not impossible.
In future posts, we will discuss some of these specific infections, how they can be prevented and how to know if you need to contact an attorney who specializes in medical malpractice.