All Too Often, Going To The Hospital Makes You Sicker

The next time you have to undergo an operation or give birth, you might want to check and see if your hospital has a reputation for making their patients even sicker than they already were.

Healthcare-acquired infections — bacterial, fungal and viral illnesses that patients can get from contaminated medical equipment, poorly done surgical incisions or antibiotics overuse — are a major problem in the U.S.

“So much death is happening from these infections,” said Doris Peter, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center. “It’s something that could happen to us or someone we know the next time we go to the hospital.”

In an effort to help patients make informed decisions on where they should seek care, Consumer Reports released a hospital infections rating report on July 29. Using federal data, Peter and her team scored hospitals based on their rates of infections at surgical sites, catheter/urinary tract infections and bloodline infections. New this year, they also scored based on MRSA and C. diff, two common and drug-resistant bacterial infections that can spread easily and are potentially fatal.

This is not a niche issue and, as Peter said, it can be a matter of life and death: 648,000 patients got a total of 721,800 infections as a result of their care in 2011, the latest data year provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And every day, more than 200 Americans with these types of infections will die during their hospital stays.

Surprisingly, prestigious hospitals aren’t immune from this problem. Consumer Reports found that acclaimed hospitals like Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland, Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles all had high rates of these infections.