Peter Pronovost, M.D., Ph.D.

In its March 2010 issue, Consumer Reports featured Dr. Peter Pronovost’s hospital safety and checklist program to prevent ICU central-line associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI) that, in Michigan, saved an estimated 1,500 lives and $200 million in the first 18 months alone. Dr. Pronovost is now expanding this program nationally, to try to get every hospital ICU to adopt this method of preventing infections.

This checklist lists common-sense hygiene steps to follow when inserting, using, or removing a central line. The steps require equipment no more complex than hand soap, an antiseptic solution, and sterile drapes and garb. Other key components: giving nurses the authority to make doctors follow all the steps, measuring and reporting infection rates (Consumer Reports, March 2010).

Central lines are long, flexible catheters that enter a large vein and go to the heart, delivering lifesaving nutrients, fluids, or blood transfusions to a patient in large volumes. Unlike regular IVs, which usually stay in for only a few days, central lines can stay put for weeks or even months, and these lines can get contaminated when hospitals don’t follow strict cleanliness guidelines. This contamination can cause sepsis, an infection of the entire bloodstream. Half of these patients infected with sepsis will die.

I did a quick search on Pronovost’s website, “On the Cusp: Stop BSI”, to see if any hospitals in my area (Austin) are signed up to participate in his infection prevention checklist program. Unfortunately, none of my area hospitals are listed. Click here to see if your hospital is on board with this checklist.

Why wouldn’t all hospitals want to address central line infections, which account for 15 percent of all hospital infections but are responsible for at least 30 percent of the 99,000 annual hospital-infection-related deaths? These types of infections add an average $42,000 to the hospital bills of each ICU patient. Experts estimate 30,000-62,000 people die from central line associated infections every year in the U.S. This high death toll should matter to my hospital; it should matter to all of our hospitals.

With some online encouragement from you, our local hospitals can save lives and money by following Peter Pronovost’s practical, low-cost checklist that when used, cuts that deadly infection rate by two-thirds. Contact your state lawmakers now asking them to use their influence to get your hospital to use the checklist—and save lives.