Patient Care

Healthcare-Associated Infections Continue to Impact the U.S. Healthcare System Financially


Clinical question: What is the estimated cost of healthcare-associated infections (HAI) to the U.S. healthcare system?

Background: In spite of education efforts, HAIs occur frequently and contribute to high healthcare costs in the U.S. This study sought to estimate the costs of HAIs to the U.S. system using statistical analyses of published data.

Study design: Simulations of published data.

Setting: Published studies on five major HAIs.

Synopsis: Monte Carlo simulations based upon published point estimates were used to estimate per-case cost and confidence intervals, with extrapolation to total costs to the U.S. healthcare system. Overall, five major HAIs occur approximately 440,000 times annually and cost the healthcare system an estimated $9.78 billion (range $8.28 to $11.5 billion) in 2009.

Surgical site infections (36.0%) were the most common of the studied HAIs, with increased per-case cost of $20,785, equating to an estimated $3.30 billion annually (33.7% of total HAI costs). Clostridium difficile infection accounted for 30.3% of HAI but only 15.4% of costs ($1.51 billion). Central line-associated bloodstream infections were most costly per case ($45,814), with total costs of $1.85 billion (18.9% of costs). Ventilator-associated pneumonia accounted for $3.09 billion, or 31.7% of total costs. Catheter-associated urinary tract infection only represented 0.3% of total costs, or $27.9 million annually.

The authors suggest that changes in payment reform likely will drive hospitals to further invest in HAI reduction efforts.

Bottom line: HAIs remain frequent and expensive complications of hospitalization, in spite of improvement efforts to date.

Citation: Zimlichman E, Henderson D, Tamir O, et al. Health care-associated infections: a meta-analysis of costs and financial impact on the US health care system. JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173(22):2039-2046.

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