Study: Infection Control More Effective When Hospitals Work Together vs. Alone

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Implementing a program to reduce methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus was more effective when all hospitals in a region took part compared with implementation at an individual hospital, according to a study in Health Affairs.

Researchers used a model to simulate MRSA cases in Orange County, Calif., by studying the effect of infection control practices at 34 hospitals, 29 of which were acute-care. Specifically, researchers assessed the effect of MRSA surveillance — testing all patients at admission for MRSA — and contact isolation — wearing gloves and gowns when entering a room occupied by an infected patient and when interacting with an infected patient or the patient's environment.

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The model used documented rates of MRSA incidence and MRSA readmissions to determine the connection between hospitals' MRSA rates.

Data showed that surveillance and contact isolation procedures at one hospital decreased MRSA incidence in that hospital and in many other hospitals in the county that had not implemented these practices.

When all Orange County hospitals implemented these practices, the decrease in MRSA prevalence was even greater — outpacing the decrease a hospital could achieve alone. In addition, the effect was not linear: doubling the number of hospitals that implemented the intervention more than doubled the reduction in MRSA rates.

All hospitals adopting MRSA infection control practices produced greater benefits than individual hospitals' adoption because hospitals often share patients, whether through transfers or readmissions to other hospitals, according to the study. Similarly, one hospital's infection control practices can affect the MRSA rate at other hospitals due to patient transfers and readmissions.

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