Last updated: December 7, 2015
Too many hospitals are allowing superbugs to gang up on patients. This summer, Consumer Reports released a groundbreaking series on antibiotic-resistant superbugs and for the first time ever, Consumer Reports rated hospitals based on their infection rates for MRSA and C.diff. These are two of the most common and deadly bacterial infections in hospitals. Our latest superbug investigation revealed how hospitals and doctors contribute to antibiotic resistance and hospital-acquired infections, and what hospitals and patients can do to protect against germ warfare.
Every year an estimated 648,000 people in the U.S. develop infections during a hospital stay, and about 75,000 die with these infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s more than twice the number of people who die each year in car crashes.
When more people are aware of hospital infection risks at their local hospital, they can take steps to protect themselves and their families. And they can team up with their doctors and medical staff to prevent infections. That’s why today Consumers Union, the policy in action arm of Consumer Reports, is launching “The Low-Down Dozen,” a social media project to call attention to twelve hospitals that earned low scores for avoiding five infections in our latest ratings. In addition to posting their scores here, we’ll be posting their scores on Twitter so that more people have access to this vital and potentially life-saving information. Our hospital Ratings provide a snapshot of how hospitals performed in a given time period, and we use the best and most relevant data available to us. You can follow along @ConsumersUnion and the #SlamSuperbugs hashtag.
How does Consumer Reports rate hospitals?
Our Ratings of more than 3,000 U.S. hospitals were sobering. Only 6 percent of hospitals scored well against both infections. Our Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center analyzed infection information reported by hospitals to the CDC’s National Health Safety Network (NHSN). The data is made public by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In addition to our latest Ratings for MRSA and C. diff, we rated hospitals on three additional infections, including central-line associated bloodstream infections, surgical site infections, and catheter-associated urinary tract infections. When possible, our Ratings are based on data that have been statistically adjusted to minimize differences among hospitals due to the health of its patients, its size, and whether it’s a teaching hospital. Scores related to the chance of readmissions, patient experience, and avoiding adverse events in surgery patients were adjusted based on the health status of patients. Read our explanation for how we rate hospitals and how you should use the information.
Twelve hospitals earned our lowest scores for preventing infections
The 12 hospitals below (listed alphabetically) earned our lowest ratings in infection prevention for having higher than average infection rates across five types of hospital infections. These Ratings reflect how these hospitals performed in a snapshot in time. The data are released periodically throughout the year.
The twelve hospitals were not the only ones that received low scores from Consumer Reports, but these hospitals did perform low across all five types of hospital infections based on data they provided to federal government agencies between October 2013 and September 2014. Performing poorly across all five infection categories is a red flag that the hospital is not focusing proper resources on infection control. These hospitals should be held accountable for their low performance — by their community and by their Board of Directors.
Hospitals must do these things to prevent infections:
- Follow infection control protocol, such as using protections including gowns, masks, and gloves by all staff.
- Reduce overuse of antibiotics.
- Have an antibiotic stewardship program. That should include mandatory reporting of antibiotic use to the CDC.
- Accurately report how many infections patients get in the hospital.
- Promptly report outbreaks to patients, as well as to state and federal health authorities.
The CDC provides guidance to hospital CEOs and hospital staff to help hospitals reduce infection rates. Some CDC recommendations include: implementing alert systems to track patients who have drug-resistant germs; strengthening infection control actions; and prescribing the right antibiotics at the right dose at the right time. These hospitals can do much better!
We’ve asked these hospitals what they are doing to improve. We’ve asked them to specify why their infection rates were higher than average during the reporting time period of October 2013 to September 2014.
As of October 15, we have received written responses from all twelve hospitals:
- Brooklyn Hospital Center
- Floyd Memorial Hospital and Health Services
- Little Company of Mary Hospital and Health Care Centers
- Rockdale Medical Center
- St. Petersburg General Hospital
- UF Health Jacksonville
- Venice Regional Bayfront Health
- Fremont-Rideout Health Group
- Riverview Medical Center
- Decatur Memorial Hospital
- Mercy St. Anne Hospital
- Charlotte Hungerford Hospital (initial response); detailed response here.
We will be updating this blog post if we get more written responses.
These hospitals listed say they have made changes in past year. We’re highlighting their responses on Twitter and you can click on the hospital names above to see their responses. We look forward to seeing what the updated data shows.
Why call out hospitals?
The clock is ticking on antibiotic resistance. We need to keep antibiotics working. Antibiotic overuse and misuse is breeding antibiotic resistance, which makes it harder for patients to fight off these deadly infections. Antibiotic overuse alone (even without drug resistance) also greatly contributes to in-hospital infection rates. We can curb our antibiotic overuse and antibiotic-resistant infection crisis if we focus on the problems that got hospitals here in the first place and call upon them to take action fast.
We also believe that patients have a right to know whether the hospital they are entering has a superbug problem. People need information about safety, cost and quality to make informed decisions about where to get health care. This infection problem is much bigger than these twelve hospitals. We are encouraging patients across the country to think about how their own hospital is performing on infection prevention.
Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that preventing infections and improving antibiotic prescribing could save 37,000 lives from drug-resistant infections over five years. Consumer Reports, the world’s largest and most trusted nonprofit consumer organization, is committed to helping wipe out antibiotic-resistant superbugs before it’s too late. Patients, doctors, and hospitals must all play a role in addressing this problem.
Help make hospitals safer by demanding immediate action
Right now, patients of all ages are battling infections that are becoming harder to treat with antibiotics. Hospitals and patients need to act now to protect the future generation of patients who will be at risk of infections. You can help educate fellow patients about the risks of antibiotic misuse and demand that hospitals use better prevention practices. Help us amplify our message and send your own using the Twitter hashtag #SlamSuperbugs.