The Bottom Line with HAIs


By Amanda Holdan-Sinisi

There are many pitfalls that come with Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAIs). Among the most blatant is that patients don’t visit hospitals to get sicker, but there is an abundance of non-health-related downsides to HAIs that directly affect healthcare organizations. Specifically, hospitals hurt their bottom lines when unexpected infections afflict their patients.

According to Becker’s Hospital Review, one HAI can cost hospitals between $42,000-$60,000 per patient. Considering 1.7 million patients contract an HAI in the US every year, these amounts add up quickly. Furthermore, the costs of these infections have only been increasing as it becomes more evident that HAIs are preventable through hand hygiene compliance and improved quality-of-care.

The CMS is directly trying to reduce poor quality-of-care with financial incentives, even beyond the fact that they do not reimburse hospitals for costs acquired due to HAIs. Effective since October 2014, the CMS states that hospitals in the 75th percentile of worst Hospital-Acquired Condition scores—meaning the bottom 25% of performers—are subject to a payment reduction of 1 percent.

The Joint Commission has more recently strengthened their stance against HAIs. Since January 2018, any individual observation of hand hygiene noncompliance grants a citation with a Requirement for Improvement. Previously, the Joint Commission would only issue an RFI to a facility if they exhibited no progress with hand hygiene programs, or if there was no plan at all. Now, it just takes one hand hygiene failure to get written up and potentially lose accreditation. While there is no citable number (yet) for the monetary loss that comes with losing accreditation, it is sure to warrant a significant cost.

When it comes to uncertain costs of HAIs, the list is extensive. The extended stay and care these patients need, the materials required to treat them, and the time taken away from healthcare professionals all add to the financial burden. These patients are also more susceptible to antibiotic resistance from the aggressive treatments, which can lead to even more complications in the future. This makes it impossible to know exactly how much money is being expended to treat HAIs.

By now you might be wondering: wouldn’t it just be cheaper to prevent HAIs altogether? The answer is yes, and electronic hand hygiene monitoring solutions like BioVigil have been proven to do so. BioVigil provided one client with a $656,000 average reduction in unreimbursed cost-of-care due to HAI improvement. Not to mention, monetary setbacks are only one of the costs that follow HAIs—but technology is proving to be a holistic solution.