It's often said that success has many fathers but failure is a ...., well, it's an orphan.
In this case, however, the campaign by the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions / CUPE on hosptial acquired infections has paid off. OCHU led the campaign for years demanding (among other points) that hospitals be required to report hospital acquired infections.
After repeated campaigns by OCHU, the government began to require hospitals to report on three major hospital acquired infections.
A new study on one of these diseases, C. difficile, has just come out. It shows that public reporting has led to a significant reduction in the incidence of the disease in hospitals.
Below is an editorial from today's Toronto Star commenting on the results of that change in policy and concluding that "Openness isn't just the right thing to do. It saves lives, too.". They suggest about 100 lives per year are being saved
Now if only we could get the Star to fight for another aspect of OCHU's campaign for superbug transparency: that hospitals be required to report the number of deaths associated with hospital acquired infections.
Openness saves lives
Thu Jul 19 2012
Rates of a deadly hospital superbug have dropped by more than one quarter in Ontario since 2008. That translates into about 100 saved lives every year. By any measure, that's great news.
What makes it even better news is that the apparent cause of this dramatic improvement is not some pricey new drug or medical gadget, but a simple move to increased public transparency.
The rates of C. difficile fell after the province made it mandatory for hospitals to publicly report their cases of this hospital-acquired infection, a study released Tuesday found.
It's really quite amazing what can happen when people know they will be publicly held accountable for something. Doctors, nurses and other staff who work in our hospitals have long known what needs to be done to reduce infection rates - hand washing, isolating sick patients and proper room-cleaning procedures are high among them.
But knowing what to do and doing it perfectly each and every time, especially in a hectic hospital environment, aren't quite the same thing. The researchers say Ontario's public reporting requirement helped keep hospitals focused on the problem of C. difficile.
That makes sense. No one ever wants to be at the bottom of the list, especially when the stakes are this high.
Public reporting of outbreaks and infection rates gives all patients and their families the information they should have before going into a hospital. But it also forces hospitals to compare themselves and act accordingly. Those doing well can share their best practices and those doing poorly are prompted to make changes.
Hospitals and, really, most institutions, balk at the prospect of publicly reporting all kinds of data. It's easy to see why. Transparency can lead to moments of embarrassment when an institution falls short of expectations. But this study shows that transparency helps hospitals improve and provide better patient care.
Openness isn't just the right thing to do. It saves lives, too.
© 2012 Torstar Corporation
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