Furr & Henshaw
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$10 billion yearly tab for hospital acquired infections

South Carolina readers might be surprised to learn that hospital acquired infections cost the health care system in the U.S. $10 billion annually. Approximately one in every 20 patients who have been hospitalized contracts an infection, according to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since these types of infections are largely preventable through the use of best practices checklists, high rates of infections might be considered medical malpractice.

The new numbers represent an improvement as past studies have put the annual cost between $20 billion to $40 billion; however, there is ample room for improvement. A team from the Center for Patient Safety Research and Practice at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston reviewed 26 different studies to pinpoint the costs for treating the five most expensive, preventable and common infections found in hospitalized patients.

The most expensive infection is a bloodstream infection from a central line with a cost of $45,814 per patient. Pneumonia associated with the use of a ventilator is the second most expensive at a cost of $40,144. The third most expensive is post-surgery infections, which cost $20,785 per case. Next are Clostridium difficile, a digestive tract infection, and UTI from catheter use with costs of $11,285 and $865 per patient, respectively.

Hospital acquired infections are not only expensive, they are potentially dangerous and lethal. A lawyer who specializes in medical malpractice cases might be a valuable resource for a family who has lost a loved one to a preventable infection. The lawyer might have the necessary resources and experience to negotiate successfully with a hospital and its insurance company. In some situations, the lawyer may recommend a trial in civil court.

Source: Reuters, "Hospital infections cost U.S. $10 billion a year", Ann Harding, September 12, 2013

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