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Infections After Surgery: More Transparency Urgently Needed

People should learn from their mistakes. Institutions should too.

So why do hospitals still have almost complete discretion on whether or not to repot infections that result from surgery? After all, such infections cost more than 8,000 people their lives in the U.S. every year.

A reporting requirement could reduce the frequency of medical malpractice and cut down on needless deaths.

It could also save the U.S. healthcare system as much as $10 billion a year.

These figures come from a new report from researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The report found that fewer than half the states (21 in all) have laws that mandate monitoring of infections that follow surgery.

Of those 21 states, only eight require public disclosure of the data. And only a fraction of the types of available surgeries are included in the reporting - 10 out of a possible 250.

The collection and distribution of data on surgical infections acquired in hospitals remains highly fragmented and inconsistent across the country.

Yet without more consistency, it is hard for healthcare consumers and government regulators to compare infection rates adequately and come to systematic conclusions about the quality of care - and how to improve it.

More transparency is urgently needed. The lead author of the Johns Hopkins report, Dr. Mark Makary, is himself a surgeon. "Is it right," he asks, that hospitals can be well aware of an alarmingly high infection rate or other bad outcome at their hospital relative to neighboring hospitals and not disclose that information, continuing to provide more dangerous services unbeknownst to the consumer?"

The answer to Dr. Makary's question is clear: No!

Source: "Lack of National Reporting Mandate for Hospital Infections Hurts Consumers," Gergana Koleva, Forbes, 4-5-12

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