Hospital Compare, a website run by Medicare to give consumers more information about hospitals, recently released new figures on a number of issues, including health care-associated infections and treatment of stroke and blood clots.
The site compiles information from more than 4,000 Medicare-certified hospitals in the United States, including Via Christi Hospitals and Wesley Medical Center.
The newly released data are not currently tied to Medicare reimbursements for hospitals and include information on all hospital patients – not just Medicare patients – said JoAnn Paul, director of quality and infection prevention for Wesley Medical Center.
Paul said in the future, the data could be used to determine, in part, reimbursement rates as well as help patients make decisions about hospitals.
As part of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare plans to use quality measures – such as patient mortality, readmissions, pneumonia, heart attack and heart failure – to partially determine future Medicare reimbursements.
The Hospital Compare data showed that Via Christi Hospitals had a worse than national average rate of Clostridium difficile – or C. diff – intestinal infections. Via Christi reported 56 C. diff infections between Jan. 1, 2013, and March 31, 2013.
The data for Via Christi include two hospitals: St. Francis and St. Joseph. St. Teresa works under a separate Medicare license.
Steve Nesbit, chief hospital medical officer for Via Christi Health, said the hospitals incorporated several new programs in the last year since the data were reported in an effort to help improve rates.
“What we’re trying to do is change the culture and to have a safer environment,” Nesbit said.
In July, Via Christi’s executive team started daily safety huddles that are 15 minutes a day, seven days a week. In the huddles, the team discusses safety issues from the past 24 hours and what is anticipated in the next 24 hours, Nesbit said.
Via Christi also launched a hand hygiene campaign for hospital caregivers to wash hands every time they enter and leave a room, as well as a new initiative to clean rooms with bleach, which kills germs, Nesbit said.
“Do you know what the most germ-ridden object is in a patient room?” Nesbit asked, and then answered: “The TV controller.”
Last month, Via Christi also started using UV light machines to help disinfect patient rooms, Nesbit said. Several hospitals in the area, including Wesley, have recently purchased the technology to help combat infections
Wesley Medical Center reported 30 C. diff infections during the same time period last year, according to the data.
Wesley’s Paul says that the Wichita area has a problem with C. diff and part of that problem is the overuse of antibiotics.
“When people have a cold or virus, they want to leave with a prescription, and doctors are encouraged by patients to give unnecessary prescriptions,” Paul said. “They take antibiotics for four days, start to feel better and don’t take any more and then the bacteria growing in their body becomes resistant to antibiotics.”
“There is way too much antibiotic use in our community, and C. diff is difficult to treat. It lives in the gut. Giving IV antibiotics works, but not very well. It also requires vigorous hand-washing.”
Both Wesley and Via Christi reported one Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) blood infection during the first quarter of 2013, which is within the national benchmark range.
There were no reported C. diff infections for Via Christi St. Teresa and there were too little data to report for MRSA.
Kansas is one of only a few states that does not require health care providers to report infection rates to the state. But as part of Medicare, many hospitals are required to report the information to the federal government.
Every day, about one in every 20 hospitalized patients has an infection that is associated with receiving medical care, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Americans contract more than 1.7 million infections each year while being treated in hospitals, according to the CDC. Those infections result in about 99,000 deaths each year.
Treatment of stroke
Both hospitals reported 100 percent compliance for protocols for stroke patients. The Kansas average is 96 percent.
Nesbit said he is very proud of Via Christi’s stroke program, which recently received recertification from the Joint Commission, a nonprofit, nationwide accreditation organization.
Wesley scored slightly higher than Via Christi in giving stroke patients cholesterol-lowering medicine, written educational materials about strokes and rehabilitation services evaluations. However, both hospitals scored above Kansas and national averages in those areas.
St. Teresa did not have enough data in this area to report.
Via Christi and Wesley scored 100 percent for compliance in the treatment of patients related to preventing blood clots after the patients were admitted to the hospital or underwent surgery. They scored above state and national averages.
There wasn’t enough data to report in this area for St. Teresa.
Pregnancy and deliveries
Wesley had no newborns whose deliveries were scheduled too early when not medically necessary, according to the data, which were collected between April 1, 2012, and March 31, 2013.
“We know that babies born before 39 weeks are more likely to need neonatal intensive care unit care,” Paul said.
“We get some push back from moms who are 38 weeks and six days who want to deliver because grandma is here. ... It’s not popular, but we (wait) because it’s the right thing. And most moms come around to it once they know it’s better for the baby.”
There were too few cases to report for Via Christi hospitals in Wichita, according to the data.
Other data available on Hospital Compare include information about average emergency room wait times, readmissions, deaths and surgical complications.