Intermediate hospital occupancy linked to higher C. diff rates, study finds

Patients are more at risk for acquiring a Clostridium difficile infection when a hospital is only moderately full versus at full capacity, according to a study published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine.

For the study, researchers analyzed data on 558,829 Medicare patients discharged from 327 hospitals across California between 2008 and 2016.

In total,  2,045 patients developed C. diff during their stay. Researches looked at the average occupancy over a patient's stay and found the risk of contracting C. diff was more than three times greater when the hospital was 25 to 75 percent full, compared to when the facility was less than 25 percent full or more than 75 percent full.

"The theory that infection rates will go up with occupancy, because of staff cutting corners with steps like handwashing, may seem logical but this model shows it's not as simple as that," said lead author Mahshid Abir, MD, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor. "[T]he effects of occupancy levels on inpatients has been neglected … Some hospitals may be implementing operational factors during high occupancy that improve HAIs; we need to study what those are."

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