Hospital Administration

Healthcare Associated Infections: What is the Message, and What Can We Do About Them?

2 Mins read

 JESS3_GE_HAI_Infographic_18

 JESS3_GE_HAI_Infographic_18

The good people at GE and JESS3 have come up with an HAI infographic.  It’s pretty, and it conveys the horrible information that many of us already know — healthcare associated infections kill about 100,000 people a year, and add $35 billion a year to our collective health care bill (here in the US of A); 5% of hospital inpatients end up with an HAI.

So what do we expect the world to do with this infographic?  The FDA has rolled out new cigarette package warnings, including graphic photos, that are presumably intended to so sicken potential purchasers of cigarettes that they drop the pack of cigarettes and run screaming from the counter.  In more measured terms, the FDA says:

The introduction of these warnings is expected to have a significant public health impact by decreasing the number of smokers, resulting in lives saved, increased life expectancy, and lower medical costs.

But what is the expected public health impact of publishing this infographic?  I would like to see GE, and/or others, fund the public health campaigns that are needed to accompany the release of such information.  GE is already doing some of that, to be sure, but a staggeringly large problem like the one identified here needs more attention.  The federales are trying to move the needle by refusing to pay for the cost of providing health care services required due to HAIs.  The government and providers are likely to be spending a lot of time and resources in line-drawing and finger-pointing, fighting over the dollars at stake, without pulling back and addressing root causes of HAIs in a systematic manner.

And what sort of campaign do we need in this circumstance?  A consciousness-raising campaign, so that (1) the empowered patient can insist on provider transparency, and create additional market forces pulling or pushing providers away from the marketplace that has allowed the preventable HAI count to swell, and (2) engaged providers can work to prevent the preventable HAIs and communicate the value and quality of care that they can deliver to patients and potential patients.

One possible meeting ground for like-minded patients and providers on this issue is the Society for Participatory Medicine (yes, another shameless plug for the Society and its journal, blog and listserv — full disclosure: I am chair of its public policy committee).  Join us! 

Participatory Medicine is a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health, and in which providers encourage and value them as full partners.

Again, the infographic may introduce the problem to folks who may not be aware of it, but the real work lies in solving the problem, not just realizing that there is one.

David Harlow
The Harlow Group LLC
Health Care Law and Consulting

      

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DAVID HARLOW is Principal of The Harlow Group LLC, a health care law and consulting firm based in the Hub of the Universe, Boston, MA. His thirty years’ experience in the public and private sectors affords him a unique perspective on legal, policy and business issues facing the health care community. David is adept at assisting clients in developing new paradigms for their business organizations, relationships and processes so as to maximize the realization of organizational goals in a highly regulated environment, in realms ranging from health data privacy and security to digital health strategy to physician-hospital relationships to the avoidance of fraud and abuse. He's been called "an expert on HIPAA and other health-related law issues [who] knows more than virtually anyone on those topics.” (Forbes.com.) His award-winning blog, HealthBlawg, is highly regarded in both the legal and health policy blogging worlds. David is a charter member of the external Advisory Board of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network and has served as the Public Policy Chair of the Society for Participatory Medicine, on the Health Law Section Council of the Massachusetts Bar Association and on the Advisory Board of FierceHealthIT. He speaks regularly before health care and legal industry groups on business, policy and legal matters. You should follow him on Twitter.
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