Health Care
1:51 pm
Fri June 21, 2013

RI Hospital Cuts Infection Rate; More Hospitals to Track C. Diff.

Rhode Island Hospital officials say they have reduced the incidence of a potentially deadly infection patients can acquire in the hospital by 70 percent. Hospitals around the country are battling the infection called C. difficile , but tracking their progress has been difficult.

Rhode Island Hospital
Credit Flo Jonic / RIPR
C. difficile rates are down at Rhode Island Hospital, but nationwide we still don't have a handle on the prevalence of this potentially deadly infection.

C. difficile causes infectious diarrhea, and you’re most likely to pick it up in a contaminated hospital or long-term care facility. 14,000 people die from it every year nationwide. What’s more, it resists most antibiotics, so it’s hard to treat.

But until recently, there’s been no requirement to report or monitor outbreaks. Lisa Waldowski is an infection control specialist with the Joint Commission, the nation’s primary hospital accreditation body.

“We’re just beginning to overall define the prevalence of C. difficile in hospitals," says Waldowski. "Typically we’ve been behind the eight ball and addressed C. difficile once it’s already been identified and you’re following up on an outbreak.”

Waldowski says 2013 is the first year the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid have required hospitals to track these infections.

She says Rhode Island Hospital's 70 percent reduction in C. difficile is impressive, but now the task is getting that number to zero.