A shift in governmental regulations regarding reimbursement for hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) is forcing hospitals to take a closer look at how to reduce them. A recent study in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology shows that copper-alloy surfaces may be one such solution.3 According to the study, although only 9% of the touch surfaces in each ICU were replaced with copper components, there were 58% fewer HAI cases.1
“Before these regulations, hospitals didn’t necessarily want technology to decrease HAI rates, because the more infections and complications, the longer the length of patient stay, the greater the reimbursement, and the better the bottom line,” says Archelle Georgiou, MD, president of Georgiou Consulting LLC in Minneapolis and an advisor to the Copper Development Association.
Three regulations that have resulted in reimbursements to hospitals getting cut include:
- The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which was implemented on Oct. 1, 2008, which states that Medicare will not reimburse for certain types of HAIs;
- Section 3025 of the Affordable Care Act (signed into law in 2010), which incentivizes hospitals to decrease their readmission rates, which frequently are caused by HAIs. Beginning this fall, hospitals are getting reduced reimbursement when their readmission rates exceed a certain threshold. The maximum penalty in 2013 is 1% and will increase to 3% by 2015; and
- Section 1886 of the Affordable Care Act, which describes value-based purchasing and makes hospitals eligible to receive incentive payments for achieving better care on certain quality metrics. Funding for the program comes from withholding payment from poor-performing hospitals. The financial impact to hospitals started this year. In 2014, urinary tract infections and vascular-catheter-associated infections will be among the targeted conditions measured by CMS to calculate incentives and penalties.
“Hospitals are now feeling a direct impact from all of this,” Dr. Georgiou says. “Back in 2008, hospitals were noticing, but it was hard to get their attention since only one program was impacting their bottom line. But, pretty soon, hospitals risk losing upwards of 5% of their Medicare reimbursement for decreased quality.
“Reducing HAIs is clearly on the priority list of chief operating officers. They are very aware of the impact to their bottom line. They are looking to their vendors and suppliers to develop strategies to work with their hospitals to improve performance around these metrics.”
Karen Appold is a freelance writer in Pennsylvania.