Only 21 states require public reporting of surgical-site infection rates, and only eight of those states make the information readily accessible online, according to a study published in the Journal for Healthcare Quality, HealthLeaders Media reports.
According to the study, research has linked surgical-site infections -- or SSIs -- with 8,000 deaths in U.S. annually. Research also suggests that SSIs occur in 4% to 25% of major surgery cases and cost the U.S. health care system about $10 billion per year (Clark, HealthLeaders Media, 3/20).
For the study, researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine conducted an online search to identify state laws and policies on SSI reporting (Rogers, Palm Beach Daily News, 3/17).
The study found that 29 states have no laws mandating SSI reporting (HealthLeaders Media, 3/20). It also found that hospitals across the country use different methodologies to assess SSI rates.
Martin Makary, lead researcher for the study, said that reported SSI rates can vary depending on how well hospitals follow up with patients after discharge (Overland, FierceHealthcare, 3/19).
Makary also said, "Patients by and large are still left with no useful information to make healthcare choices about which hospital to go to, and because of that fact, they don't have access to metrics that are being collected and they're forced to walk in blind" (HealthLeaders Media, 3/20).
The study recommended that policymakers institute national standards for public reporting of SSI rates (Palm Beach Daily News, 3/17).
Makary wrote, "Nothing motivates hospitals to improve quality and listen to their front line staff like public reporting." He added, "In order for the consumer to interpret publicly reported SSI rates, it is imperative that the data be collected and reported in a standardized manner" (HealthLeaders Media, 3/20).