Several years ago, Medicare came up with an idea that seemed like a no-brainer: Stop paying hospitals to treat infections that patients pick up while they are in the hospital. That, the agency hoped, would both save money and cut back on preventable infections. Unfortunately, a new study suggests that effort has not yet translated into fewer hospital-acquired infections, or saved much money.
The study, published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, focused on two common infections: bloodstream infections from contaminated central-line catheters, and urinary tract infections associated with urinary catheters.
Researchers analyzed data from 398 hospitals in 41 states. There were significant decreases in infection rates right before and right after the policy was implemented, in October 2008. But since then, the policy seems to have had no effect, good or bad.