Ongoing Costs of Infection Prevention Programs Pay Off

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Although infection prevention programs require ongoing investments, the money spent is worthwhile considering the costs saved as healthcare-associated infection rates fall, according to a study in the American Journal of Infection Control.

Although multifaceted infection prevention programs require ongoing investments, the money spent is worthwhile considering healthcare-associated infection (HAI) rates have fallen through the use of these programs, according to a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

The researchers found that elderly patients who develop an infection during their stay in an intensive care unit (ICU) are 35% more likely to die within 5 years of being discharged. Preventing the 2 most common HAIs not only increases the odds that these patients will survive, but can reduce the cost of their care by more than $150,000.


“Any death from preventable infections is one too many,” senior study author Patricia Stone, PhD, RN, FAAN, director of the Center for Health Policy at Columbia University School of Nursing, said in a statement. “We’ve known for decades what works to prevent infections and save lives. Now, our study shows just how much money can be saved by investing in prevention.”

The authors analyzed data on outcomes for more than 17,000 Medicare patients admitted to 31 hospitals in 2002 and used an additional 5 years of claims data to assess the long-term outcomes and health costs.

Overall, more than half (57%) of elderly ICU patients die within 5 years, but infections increase the likelihood of death. Within 5 years of ICU discharge, 75% of those who developed central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI) and 77% of those who developed ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) died.

Prevention programs for CLABSI add an average of 15.55 years of life and efforts to prevent VAP add 10.84 years on average. While the cost of running an infection prevention program costs an average of $145,000, according to the study, the authors found prevention efforts reduced ICU costs by $174,713 for CLABSI patients and by $163,090 for VAP patients.

“Our results underscore the importance of maintaining ongoing investments in HAI prevention,” the authors concluded. “The welfare benefits implied by the advantageous [incremental cost-effectiveness ratios] would be lost if the investments were suspended.”