Managing Editor's Memo

Hospital-Acquired Infections Should Not be Tolerated

It’s not just the daunting challenges that occasionally defeat us. Sometimes plain old-fashioned inertia makes us hit the snooze button once too often. Our cover story leads with a challenge: “Almost immediately, hospitals could cut in half the number of infections that patients contract each year in health care facilities, but we lack the will or have failed to install the proper financial incentives to do so, experts say.”

Contributing editor Joseph Burns presents an in-depth package that looks at the problem of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) and what can be done about it. Something’s already being done about it in some hospitals that have made ending HAIs such a priority that they are now near zero incidents. Other hospitals, though, not so good. Isn’t that the way it has always been in health care? There’s a wide disparity in quality.

Lives are at stake and no one shrugs, least of all clinician executives at health insurance companies. Their beneficiaries suffer, as well as their bottom lines. “Insurance companies could and should prioritize safety in hospitals more than they are doing,” says John Santa, MD, medical director of Consumer Reports.

There are success stories when it comes to developing systems. Thomas A. Scully, who ran CMS under President George W. Bush, tells us in our Q&A that two of the things he’s most proud of from his tenure are Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D. Either because of politics or simply from honest evaluation, some may argue that these do not count as accomplishments. Fair enough, as even Scully would admit. He liked trying to get bipartisan approval and appreciates rational discussion and disagreement.

But that’s a debate for another venue. Suffice it to say here, though, that he did get things done. Take heart.

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