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A new twist on a tool to track infections

February 2009

Published in the February 2009 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

WITH MEDICARE SAYING that it will no longer pay for the care of certain hospital-acquired infections “and with other payers sure to follow “hospitals have a compelling reason to track infections in their facilities. Now, a new twist on an old product may help them to do just that.

The product, MedMined, is a service from Cardinal Health that analyzes data on hospital infections from various information systems within facilities. The service can not only alert hospitals about impending outbreaks, but can provide a financial analysis of how treating infections is hurting a hospital’s bottom line.

Troy Kirkpatrick, a spokesman for Cardinal Health, a Dublin, Ohio-based manufacturer and distributor of medical supplies and technologies, says that the MedMined data-mining technology is more powerful than traditional manual targeted surveillance strategies, which tend to focus on only one or two units in a hospital. “You can’t know how something like the new Medicare payment rules will affect you if you don’t have a whole-hospital view of infection rates and incidence,” he explains.

To give hospitals another view of infection performance, Cardinal Health last year added a benchmarking tool that allows hospitals using MedMined to compare their infection rates to other institutions that have a similar number of beds and patient acuity. The tool is being initially offered to hospitals in states that have taken a proactive stance toward infection control through state-wide initiatives.

Mr. Kirkpatrick says that hospitals that use MedMined are often surprised by the impact of relatively common infections like urinary tract infections (UTIs). While hospitals may put a higher priority on more life-threatening conditions, he says, infections seen as less acute often make a greater hit on a hospital’s bottom line.

“UTIs are the least expensive to treat on an individual level, because of their high incidence,” Mr. Kirkpatrick explains. “But they contribute the most to the overall cost of hospital-acquired infections.”