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Editor's Note
December 9/23, 2013

Pay for Preventing (Not Causing) Health Care–Associated Infections

JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173(22):2046. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.9754

The reason to prevent health care–associated infections is to save lives, not costs. Readers might wonder then why we thought it was important to publish a systematic review of the costs of health care–associated infections.

The answer is that the editors believe that the extraordinary costs of these infections—an estimated $10 billion a year in the United States—will motivate health care administrators to invest in the necessary systems to decrease these infections. The costs of these investments are not trivial. Information technology systems to monitor infection rates (successful quality improvement projects require knowledge of baseline rates of infection and infection following interventions); dedicated time to educate clinicians; supplementary assessments of patients for need of lines, catheters, or ventilator support; and preventive measures (eg, chlorhexidine baths, oral care with antiseptic solution) are costly. This study, however, will enable hospital administrators to better prioritize their spending by allowing them to compare the costs of interventions with the savings accrued by avoiding infections.

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