Improvements in patient safety continue to lag, according to the 2009 National Healthcare Quality Report and National Healthcare Disparities Report issued today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.


bacteria.jpgVery little progress has been made on eliminating health care-associated infections (HAIs), according to a new section in the 2009 quality report. For example, of the five types of HAIs in adult patients who are tracked in the reports:

  • Rates of postoperative sepsis, or bloodstream infections, increased by 8 percent.
  • Postoperative catheter-associated urinary tract infections increased by 3.6 percent.
  • Rates of selected infections due to medical care increased by 1.6 percent.
  • There was no change in the number of bloodstream infections associated with central venous catheter placements, which are tubes placed in a large vein in the patient’s neck, chest, or groin to give medication or fluids or to collect blood samples.
  • However, rates of postoperative pneumonia improved by 12 percent.
  • In addition, although rates are improving incrementally, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and American Indians are less likely than whites to receive preventive antibiotics before surgery in a timely manner.

Over 100 participating hospital intensive care units in Michigan have been able to keep the rates of central line-associated bloodstream infections to near zero, 3 years after adopting standardized procedures. The project, conducted by the Michigan Health and Hospital Association Keystone Center, involved the use of a comprehensive unit-based safety program to reduce these potentially lethal infections. Last year, AHRQ announced new funding that has expanded the project to all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia.
AHRQ’s annual quality and disparities reports, which are mandated by Congress, were first published in 2003. The reports show trends by measuring health care quality for the nation using a group of credible core measures. The data are based on more than 200 health care measures categorized in four areas of quality: effectiveness, patient safety, timeliness, and patient-centeredness.

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