Infection surveillance software can save lives

April 16, 2007

As many as 100,000 patients die every year from hospital-acquired infections. It doesn't have to be that way. HAIs are eminently preventable. Tools exist that can significantly lower HAI mortality and morbidity rates and reduce an associated $6 billion in excess annual health costs.

One powerful tool is the use of automated surveillance systems designed to track antibiotic overuse and underuse, as well as infection patterns. A recent survey by the Charlotte, N.C.-based healthcare alliance Premier Inc. found that of about 150 hospital-based infection control specialists, four out of five believe such technology would lower HAI rates at their facility. Unfortunately, however, only 13% of the responding hospitals reported using automated surveillance.

SafetySurveillor was acquired last October when Premier purchased the Maryland-based software company Cereplex, which was cofounded by Peterson. The product used to be called SetNet. According to Peterson, SafetySurveillor can be implemented in two to four months. It requires a limited amount of information technology support and no expenditure for hardware or software. "The hospital's only commitment is operational integration in order to maximize its capabilities," said Peterson.

Adoption of such systems may spread quickly in coming months, as more and more states mandate public reporting of HAIs. Today 16 states have laws that require some level of public reporting. Fourteen of those require infection-rate reports for individual hospitals, according to Consumers Union's Stop Hospital Infections Campaign. Another 14 states are considering similar legislation. In addition, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is considering a plan, which would take effect in October 2008, to eliminate reimbursement payments for certain infections that CMS deems preventable.

What's driving technology?

One of the reasons for the increasingly high rate of HAIs is that there has been a nationwide increase of resistance in virtually every class of antimicrobial, according to Peterson and others. As a result, clinicians need to be able to track antimicrobial resistance and the ability to impact patient care directly. Being able to find out on a real-time basis that a patient has a therapeutic antimicrobial mismatch is crucial. A good example would be a patient with a clinically significant infection such as a gram-negative bloodstream infection who is not receiving any therapy that's active against that organism. There is very high mortality associated with those sorts of occurrences.