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Failure to disclose infection rates puts patients at risk

One major cause of serious injury and death in hospitals is infection. After surgery patients are at risk of developing potentially fatal infections. Hospitals throughout the nation have been found to use extreme discretion when disclosing the rates of infection that have occurred as the result of surgery. It is known that surgical infections cause over 8,000 deaths per year.

A recent report found that only 21 states have legislation that requires monitoring and public reporting of known surgical infections. Even when infections are reported, the data is not made public. It is suspected that among most hospitals, there are some departments that perform poorly, and any disclosure of infection rates could hurt business.

The study revealed that the motivations for collecting infection data and the reporting methods to obtain that data vary state by state. Researchers concluded that, overall, it is difficult or nearly impossible for consumers to fairly access the information they need to make informed decisions about the healthcare treatment they choose to receive.

It is argued that consumers should be able to access information about surgical infection rates within their own state, and across state lines so that they can draw their own conclusions about the standards and quality of care at each facility.

In a current system that lacks transparency, consumers are burdened by a lack of information. Without giving consumers appropriate access to relevant data, waste and errors will continue to burden the system with high costs. Supporters of new mandates for disclosure believe that with transparency hospitals will be held accountable for any mistakes and failed procedures that result in infection.

Source: Forbes, "Lack of National Reporting Mandate for Hospital Infections Hurts Consumers," Georgana Koleva, April 5, 2012

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