BY THE NUMBERS
Data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show that at least seven hospitals in Georgia ranked worse than the national benchmark for central line-associated bloodstream infections. The hospitals and their scores are below:
Northside Hospital, Atlanta: 1.03
University Hospital, Augusta: 1.05
Henry Medical Center Inc., Stockbridge: 1.19
Emory Midtown, Atlanta: 1.24
Southern Regional Medical Center, Riverdale: 1.32
Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital: 1.37
Southeast Georgia Health System-Brunswick: 2.01
ALBANY, Ga. -- Several hospitals in Georgia have scored worse than the national benchmark for cases of potentially deadly bloodstream infections.
One of them was Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.
The findings were made public by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on its Hospital Compare website, which allows people to view individual hospital profiles.
Included on Phoebe's profile, under the "Patient Safety Measures" tab, the Albany not-for-profit was considered to be worse than the national benchmark in terms of central line-associated bloodstream infections.
On an attached graph, Phoebe's standard infection ratio was shown to be 1.37, while the Georgia ratio was .55. The national benchmark is 1.
This calculation compares the number of central line infections in a hospital's intensive care unit to a national benchmark based on data reported to the National Healthcare Safety Network. The results are adjusted based on certain factors, such as the type and size of a hospital or ICU.
Dr. Doug Patten, senior vice president of medical affairs at Phoebe, said Tuesday roughly a third of Georgia's hospitals have enough data to report a number through this system. Some are not participating, or have a total number of cases that is too low to be meaningful.
He also went on to say that Phoebe is supportive of transparency and reporting outcomes, and is actively involved in improving on operations within the hospital.
"This gives us a way to see that better outcomes are possible, but also allows us to migrate to best practices," Patten said. "(The data) comes from a very narrow window, from the first quarter of 2011. At best, this is a snapshot. It won't be until we have months of data until we see (what needs improvement and what is working well).
"We will continue to work on it. We are not going to spend time arguing on the validity of the data."
Patten went on to say that many such reports, including this one, show favorable results in areas where Phoebe officials actually thought more improvement was needed.
"We take (these results) seriously, and we've known we've had the opportunity to improve," he said. "Over time, we believe people will see these numbers decline.
"We weren't waiting for this report to see whether we needed changes."
A score of zero is considered the best. A score of less than "1" means the hospital had fewer such infections than hospitals of a similar size. A score of "1" means the hospital's score was no different than hospitals of similar type and size, and a score of more than "1" means the hospital had more infections than hospitals of similar type and size.
A central line is a narrow tube inserted by a doctor into a large vein of a patient's neck or chest to give important medical treatment. When not put in correctly or kept clean, central lines can become an easy way for germs to enter the body and cause serious infections in the blood.
These infections are considered to be central line-associated bloodstream infections, and can be deadly. They are thought to be most preventable when health care providers use infection control steps recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.