Americans could save billions of dollars in health care costs each year if hospitals did a better job of curbing preventable infections, according to a new study.
Research released today by JAMA Internal Medicine found that infections acquired during the course of medical treatment cost $9.8 billion annually. Researchers reviewed published data from 1998 through April 2013 and adjusted the costs for inflation in 2012 dollars.
The problem is so common that it has its own acronym: healthcare-associated infections, or HAI.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in 2009 that one out of 20 hospital patients comes down with an HAI during the course of their treatment.
According to the new JAMA report, surgical site infections contribute the most to overall costs, accounting for more than a third of the total. Individual cases of surgical site infections added an average of $20,785 to a patient's medical bills. Bloodstream infections associated with a central line were less common but more expensive to treat, costing an average of $45,814 per case.