Hospital infections were included by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) in its list of “never events.” Never events are preventable complications that arise in a hospital setting. When they occur, CMS has taken the hard-line stance that it will not reimburse hospitals for costs associated with such an event. A recent article by the American Journal of Infection Control shows that the strategy is working.
The American Journal of Infection Control published results of a survey that shows that hospitals have become more focused on preventing infections since CMS stopped paying for those that it deems preventable. The article does not address whether the increased attention has led to fewer infections, but a report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), published two years after CMS implemented the “never events” program, showed a 32% decrease in central line infections in hospitalized patients.
This report stands out as an example of why largely unregulated hospitals must face severe financial consequences when they fail to provide safe medical care and patients are injured as a result. Medical malpractice litigation is another way in which hospitals are held accountable for unsafe practices. When injury results from hospital negligence, like hospital infections caused by poor infection control measures or other safety violations, it is important that the hospital be held fully responsible in a lawsuit. As the American Journal of Infection Control article points out, it is only then that hospitals will take steps to prevent future patients from getting injured.
Hospitals are afforded too much protection when it comes to high infection rates. In fact, in Ohio, a malpractice lawyer cannot even obtain a hospital’s internal documents showing their infection rates in order to compare them to infection rates at other hospitals. In many cases, malpractice lawyers cannot hold a hospital accountable simply by virtue of an infection occurring at the hospital. Instead, the lawyer must prove that there was a delay in diagnosing the infection.