Whitehouse Introduces Bill to Fight Health Care-Associated Infections

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has introduced legislation to combat health care-associated infections (HAIs), which afflict hundreds of thousands of Americans every year and cost billions of dollars to treat, according to estimates by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The bill also promotes stewardship of antibiotics to help preserve their effectiveness and improve outcomes for patients.

“Tens of thousands of Americans die every year from health care-associated infections, which also lead to tens of billions of dollars of excess cost in our health care system. If we’re going to tackle this crisis, we need to improve the coordination of care and information. We also need to encourage wiser use of antibiotics, so they continue to be effective,” said Whitehouse. “This legislation gives everyone involved with the treatment and prevention of health care-associated infections better tools to fight them. That will help save lives and money.”

The Patient Safety Improvement Act of 2016 (S. 2467) would improve the way our health care system addresses HAIs and antibiotic stewardship. It would establish a grant program to support collaboratives between health care stakeholders—like Rhode Island’s ICU Collaborative, in place from 2005 to 2012—for the purposes of designing and implementing strategies for the prevention, control, and reporting of HAIs. It would improve timely communication about HAIs to ensure patients, their primary care doctors, and other providers involved in a patient’s post-hospital care (e.g., nursing homes) know of HAIs that the patient has acquired. It would also establish a grant program to help states develop plans to promote the appropriate use of antibiotics and prevent the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and require CDC to conduct stewardship workshops in states with the highest rates of prescribing antibiotics

HAIs have been on the rise in the United States in recent decades. One in twenty-five hospital patients on any given day has at least one HAI, according to a survey conducted by the CDC. In 2011, the CDC estimates that there were 721,000 HAIs in American acute care hospitals and that 75,000 patients with HAIs died while hospitalized. Compounding this problem is the increase in antibiotic-resistant infections, which are difficult and costly to treat, leading to between $20 and $35 billion in excess health care costs and up to $35 billion in lost productivity from hospitalizations and sick days every year. The CDC estimates that 20 percent of HAIs show resistance to antibiotics in some way.