Centennial Hills Hospital Medical Center in Las Vegas today was among nine hospitals nationwide to earn Consumer Reports’ highest rating for avoiding infections.
Consumer Reports, which publishes product and service ratings, this year expanded its hospital assessments to include information about two common and deadly infections: methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, and clostridium difficile, or C. diff.
Western Arizona Regional Medical Center in Bullhead City, Ariz., also earned Consumer Reports’ top rating for preventing infections.
Infection control is a major component of the effort to reduce adverse conditions arising during a stay in a medical facility. That’s in part because of the Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction Program, Medicare’s toughest crackdown yet on complications happening to patients.
The new tactic of docking Medicare payments by 1 percent will affect seven Southern Nevada hospitals through September. The penalties are part of the first year of a federal program mandated by the Affordable Care Act and aimed at reducing preventable harm and improving patient safety. In addition to infections, Medicare also evaluates blood clots, bed sores and falls.
The affected Southern Nevada hospitals are Harmon; Mountain View; North Vista; Southern Hills; St. Rose Dominican, Siena campus; Valley; and University Medical Center. Nye Regional Medical Center in Tonopah and Northern Nevada Medical Center in Sparks also are being penalized under the program.
The penalties affect 712 hospitals in the U.S., and Medicare officials have estimated that overall payments this year would drop by roughly $330 million because of the program.
Today’s ratings by Consumer Reports are based on data hospitals reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between October 2013 and September 2014, the most recent public data available. In addition to MRSA and C. diff., researchers looked at three other measures tracked by the CDC:
— Bloodstream infections associated with central lines, which are tubes inserted into a large vein of the body.
— Surgical-site infections, which occur when microorganisms invade an incision by a contaminated caregiver or surgical instrument, through microbes in the air or those already on the patient.
— Urinary tract infections associated with catheters, which occur when bacteria migrate into the bladder and multiply. The urinary system is designed to keep out such invaders, but defenses sometimes fail.
CDC officials say one in 25 U.S. patients acquires an infection on any given day during the course of their hospital care. That amounts to some 648,000 people annually developing infections during a hospital stay, and about 75,000 of those people will die as a result.
Staff at Centennial Hills efficiently carry out the aggressive infection-control measures routinely followed in all hospitals, said Dr. Deborah Ellis, director of infection prevention for the Valley Health System. Hand hygeine, both washing and using sanitizers, is paramount, Ellis said, and staff also are diligent to screen patients for any infections on admission.
The five hospitals in the Valley Health System follow an infection control protocol know as the 7 S Bundle. Developed by a nurse who is an infection prevention specialist, the system addresses safe operating-room practices, patient screening, showering before admission, skin preparations, solutions to remove contaminants, sutures with antimicrobials and skin-incision protections such as adhesives and special dressings.
Environmental services staff members are charged with cleaning rooms between patients, and they employ advanced techniques such as ultraviolet light, which kills some drug-resistant bacteria on door handles, tables and other surfaces in hospital rooms.
“We call our EVS staff our infection-prevention ambassadors,” Ellis said.
Centennial Hills got 61 out of 100 on the Consumer Reports’ overall safety score based on avoiding infections, readmissions, C-sections and adverse surgical events. The other Southern Nevada hospitals rated were St. Rose Dominican, Siena campus (53), St. Rose, Rose de Lima (53), St. Rose, San Martin (50), Mountain View (49), Southern Hills (48), Mesa View Regional in Mesquite (48), North Vista (44), Spring Valley (44), Summerlin (41), Valley (41), Desert Springs (40), Sunrise (32) and UMC (26).
The ratings systems and new federal program to reduce adverse outcomes are important because all institutions striving to be better need periodic report cards, said Dr. Robert Pretzlaff, chief medical officer for Dignity Health Nevada, which runs the St. Rose hospitals. Standardization between the assessment systems, however, would help people better understand what the findings mean.
“They aren’t all measuring the same things or even data from the same time frames,” Pretzlaff said. “Depending on how they frame the questions, you almost can help not looking bad or not looking good.”
Hospital officials can use the findings to improve care. For example, the Siena campus had its Medicare payments reduced 1 percent based on data from 2013. Since then, the hospital has improved is outcomes “across the board,” Pretzlaff said.
“The ratings do drive care to be better,” he said. “We take these penalties very seriously, but more importantly, we take the care we deliver very seriously, and we’re always trying to improve.”
Contact Steven Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4563.