On June 16, Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project and 11 patient safety advocates from 10 states attended the first “Consumer Conversation on Healthcare-Associated Infections” at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. The goal of this day long meeting was to discuss hospital infection issues and how consumers and CDC can work together to eliminate them.

And we had interactive discussions with CDC experts about their website, educational materials for consumers, multi-drug resistant organisms (C.diff, MRSA, gram-negative infections), the Recovery Act and funds going to the states on reducing hospital infections, tracking and reporting hospital infections, and medical harm in outpatient settings (ambulatory surgical centers, nursing homes, etc.). Consumers confronted agency staff with their concerns about various issues, including the agency’s guidelines on preventing MRSA infections and the lack of high profile attention to this problem that affects 2 million hospital patients every year.

Kathy Day, a patient safety advocate from Maine who attended the meeting, wrote in her blog: “Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to be sitting in a conference room, having a ‘conversation’ with top ranking CDC physicians and others, and confidently and repeatedly expressing my personal and profession opinion on MRSA control.”

All of these advocates have been working on the front lines in their states for infection prevention and hospital accountability to pass public reporting laws. As leaders of patient safety nonprofit organizations and committee members for state hospital infection advisory groups, these individuals brought personal experience and expertise about medical harm to the CDC. The CDC hears from hospitals, doctors, and health care administrators year-round, which is why this consumer meeting marked a critical moment for starting an honest, productive conversation with them about hospital-acquired infections beyond the statistics and the data, and we of course value that information too.

The availability of hospital infection rates –which motivates hospitals improve their prevention efforts–was brought upon by a consumer movement lead by Consumers Union and advocates working together in the states. As our Campaign Director Lisa McGiffert wrote in her guest blog for the CDC, our efforts over the past 7 years have changed the health care environment where safety improvements became a must. In February, the CDC officially endorsed public reporting as a way to eliminate hospital infections, and consumers deserve credit for stimulating these changes.

CDC and activists intend this hospital infection conversation to be ongoing in order to support the CDC’s efforts on infection prevention and for the CDC to incorporate consumers perspectives moving forward.

For visual evidence of this meeting and to learn more about these advocates and their work on hospital infections, visit our Flickr photo album here.