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School of Public Health Researcher Examines New U.S. Government Policy on Hospital-Acquired Infections

Contact(s):  Catherine Herman (518) 956-8150



A woman gets a heart exam.

UAlbany School of Public Health reseacher Timothy Hoff will be examining new U.S. policy on hospital-acquired nfections.

ALBANY, N.Y. (July 31, 2009) -- Timothy Hoff, associate professor of health policy and management at the University at Albanyís School of Public Health, is collaborating with researchers from Harvard Medical School and the Veterans Health Administration to examine the new U.S. government nonpayment policy for hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) and how it affects practices and patient safety outcomes.

The study, "Nonpayment for Preventable Complications: Impact on Hospital Practices and Health," is among the first in the nation to review the decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to no longer pay for certain HAIs. The two-year, $275,000 project is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Examples of HAIs include catheter-associated urinary tract infections and surgical site infections.  Studies show approximately two million HAIs occur annually in U.S. hospitals, causing nearly 100,000 deaths.  The annual economic cost of HAIs to the health care system is in the tens of billions of dollars.

UAlbany School of Public Health associate professor Timothy Hoff

UAlbany School of Public Health Associate Professor Timothy Hoff. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

"HAIs are one of the most costly medical errors in terms of reduced quality of life, financial expense, and lives lost, so itís critical to improve safety in this area," said Hoff. "The governmentís approach is novel since quality improvement policy up to now has been aimed at rewarding institutions like hospitals that achieve certain improvements in care and patient safety, rather than penalizing them for performing poorly.  What we will examine are the consequences -- intended and unintended -- of a government policy that shifts the emphasis from 'paying for good performance' to 'not paying for poor performance.'"

The study consists of two separate research phases.  In the first, Hoff will oversee interviews with a national sample of infection prevention staff and intensive care unit nurses to better understand how the non-payment policy affects hospital practices related to infection prevention and rates of infection.  The data will be fed into a second phase involving a national survey of infection prevention personnel in order to generalize and expand on initial findings.

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