HAIs About to Get Worse

April 27, 2016

Senior Woman in Hospital BedInteresting bit of data about the state of health care: HAIs (Hospital Acquired Infections) are about to get a whole lot more common.

Why? Some accidentally perverse incentives. The best hospitals in the country are about to have their medicare/caid funding cut (in the range of 1-2 million each) because they show up as having more complications like infection and blood clots, which is penalized under new laws. Here’s the thing, though: they’re the best because they’re far more rigorous at looking for those problems, giving better patient outcomes in the long run.

We’ve already seen how cutting (or even delaying through bureaucracy) funding but requiring treatment impacts things in California, where the Medi-Cal system unintentionally put a lot of smaller, higher quality offices out of business. (Whatever your job, ask yourself if your business could wait 6 months or more to get paid and to have another big chunk of services go unpaid as a penalty for going above and beyond to find and solve problems).

What can you do? Advocate for yourself. Point out problems, and don’t automatically tolerate simple solutions. Pain can be both a sign of infection, and of something like a blood clot; don’t just treat the pain, look for the cause. (Usually, hospitals will give you a sheet of instructions to follow so you can watch for complications—read, or have an advocate read, and carefully watch for everything on the sheet, because as things stand incentives are being put in place to ignore those complications so hospitals can report better stats).

Then, do some self-care. Support your immune system before and after any hospital stay or procedure. Follow care instructions to the letter, and keep a log of all your symptoms. Keep up on sleep, nutrition, and if your doctor allows, exercise. The system is a mess, and is basically going to stay duct-taped together through the next election before anyone even looks at it, so keep an open eye and active role to all your interactions with it.

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