Initiative reduces hospital-acquired infections, savings lives and money

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A three-year effort to reduce hospital-acquired infections has prevented more than 3,500 patient deaths and saved more than $60 million dollars, according to a report released Monday by the statewide collaborative Patient Safety First.

More than 180 California hospitals have adopted peer-to-peer training to share techniques that reduce the hospital-borne infections that sicken an estimated 200,000 California hospital patients each year, killing about 12,000 of them annually, according to the California Department of Public Health.

"This is the largest consortium of hospitals that have come together in any state working on trying to improve conditions in hospitals of patients," said J. Eugene Grigsby, president and CEO of the non-profit National Health Foundation, which evaluated the hospital data and results of the program.

Hospital-acquired infections cost California between $600 million and $1.6 billion annually. Since the program started in 2010, the study found, the 40 hospitals that consistently reported data show significant drops in three common hospital infections: 

The Patient Safety First collaboration is open to all California hospitals.

The campaign also seeks to reduce the number of pregnant women who speed up deliveries by inducing labor or having scheduled c-sections, for instance. The report said those procedures have dropped by nearly 75 percent since the program began. Grigsby said they plan to expand the initiative into other patient safety issues.

Anthem Blue Cross is funding the on-going initiative. So far, the health plan has invested $6 million. Spokesman Darrel Ng said the insurer has in turn saved millions in unnecessary hospital costs.

Nationwide, hospital-acquired infections kill an estimated 99,000 Americans and cost the nation an additional $3.1 billion.