Money-Driven Medicine, MRSA Edition

Hospital infections are a huge problem, “now linked to more deaths than diabetes or Alzheimer’s disease.” Some of the worst cases in the US result from methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)–but “several European countries, including the Netherlands and Finland, have all but eliminated MRSA.” It turns out that one corner of America’s already-socialized medicine–the VA–has radically reduced MRSA infections:

Dr. Rajiv Jain, the [Pittsburgh VA] hospital’s chief of staff, said its infection control program cost about $500,000 a year . . . . But the hospital . . . realized a net savings of nearly $900,000 when the number of infected patients fell . . . .

Fortunately, the accounting is starting to work out for other hospitals to start following the VA’s lead. For example, one doctor

was able to show administrators that the average infection cost the hospital $27,000. He demonstrated that reimbursement payments for weeks of extended treatment were not keeping pace with actual costs. “I think it was assumed that hospitals didn’t mind treating these infections because they were getting paid for it,” Dr. Shannon said.

Some states are starting to force hospitals to publish infection rates. I’d be sure to check these out before going in for any procedure.

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