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Hospitals fail to report post-surgery infection rates

Undergoing surgery can be a very scary experience for residents of North Carolina. Even routine or planned procedures can be nerve-wracking for patients. The fear of falling victim to a surgical error is legitimate. However, when doctors act wisely and carefully, it can put individuals at ease.

Unfortunately, many hospitals across the country fail to report consistent statistics for infections that develop at the site of a surgical incision. Without a national standard for reporting these infections, patients fail to understand the safety risks associated with their chosen medical facility.

Every year, more than 8,000 people die as a result of post-surgical infections. As a result of these surgery-related fatalities and infections, the U.S. healthcare system loses an estimated $10 billion annually. It's unfortunate that consumers lose out, due to the financial burden placed on the system and the lack of information provided to them.

Without a federal requirement for reporting surgical infections, potentially caused by medical error or negligence, hospitals essentially can use their discretion as to how they want to report the statistics. Many times, they collect accurate statistics, but do not make them public if state laws do not require them to do so. In other cases, hospitals are only required to report infection rates for certain types of surgeries.

By accurately reporting statistics, the business at a hospital may be negatively impacted, so health care providers are hesitant to report infection rates. Rather than being transparent for the sake of patients, health care providers are most concerned about making a profit. North Carolina patients may be going to a hospital with a disturbingly high rate of post-surgery infections, but they may never be made aware of it. This lack of transparency prevents patients from making informed health care decisions.

The primary goal of medical professionals should be to provide the highest standard of care. Fortunately, the federal government may be taking steps to urge hospitals to improve their overall standard of care. By 2014, hospitals will receive higher Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements by agreeing to report their facility's infection rates.

Source: Forbes, "Lack of National Reporting Mandate for Hospital Infections Hurts Consumers," Gergana Koleva, April 5, 2012

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