Landmark initiative to reduce healthcare-associated infections cuts deaths among Medicare patients in Michigan ICUs
Research Activities, March 2011, No. 367
Older Americans who were treated in Michigan intensive care units (ICUs) saw larger decreases in their likelihood of dying while hospitalized than similar ICU patients in other Midwestern hospitals, according to a new study evaluating an innovative quality improvement initiative funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The initiative, known as the Keystone Project, targeted ways to reduce the number of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). Previous research has shown that targeted quality improvement programs can reduce HAI rates. This study, "Impact of a Statewide Intensive Care Unit Quality Improvement Initiative on Hospital Mortality and Length of Stay: Retrospective Comparative Analysis," published in the January 31st British Medical Journal, is the first to link these programs to reduced death rates.
"This study gives us assurance that investing in large-scale, evidence-based quality improvement programs can save lives—the most important outcome for patients and doctors," said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D. "AHRQ and others have already initiated work to expand this project nationwide to other ICUs across the country."
Researchers led by Allison Lipitz-Snyderman, Ph.D., of The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, analyzed Medicare data for ICU patients in Michigan hospitals and 364 hospitals in 11 other Midwestern States. They looked at data before the project was initiated, while it was being phased in, and up to 22 months after implementation. The researchers found that overall a person's chance of dying decreased by about 24 percent in Michigan after the program was implemented compared with only 16 percent in surrounding Midwestern States where the program was not implemented.
"We knew that when we applied safety science principles to the delivery of health care, we would dramatically reduce infections in intensive care units, and now we know we are also saving lives," says Peter J. Pronovost, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Pronovost led development of the AHRQ-sponsored Keystone Intensive Care Unit Project and implemented it in Michigan hospitals with the help of the Michigan Health and Hospital Association.
"These results are very exciting, and further research should be done to address other important issues impacting the safety and quality of patient care," added Dr. Lipitz-Snyderman.
The Keystone Project uses a comprehensive approach that includes promoting a culture of patient safety, improving communication among ICU staff teams, and implementing practices based on guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), such as checklists and hand washing, to reduce rates of catheter-related bloodstream infections and ventilator-associated pneumonia.
AHRQ continues to support the Keystone Project through a contract with the Health Research & Educational Trust, an affiliate of the American Hospital Association, by reaching more hospitals and other settings in addition to ICUs and applying the approach to various HAIs. For AHRQ's recently funded HAI projects, go to AHRQ Projects to Prevent Healthcare-Associated Infections, Fiscal Year 2010 .
According to the CDC, HAIs are one of the most common complications of hospital care, accounting for an estimated 1.7 million infections, and 99,000 associated deaths in 2002. These infections are responsible for $28 billion to $34 billion in preventable health care expenses every year. Infectious agents, such as bacteria, found in health care settings can cause patients to develop HAIs when they have surgery or require central lines or urinary tract catheters.
The Keystone Project is part of a Department of Health and Human Services(HHS)-wide effort to address HAIs, as outlined in the HHS Action Plan to Prevent Healthcare-Associated Infections. Partners across HHS, including AHRQ, CDC, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and National Institutes of Health, are working together to achieve the goals of the Action Plan.