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Study: Payment penalties arent responsible for declining hospital infections

October 10, 2012

Hospital infection rates continue to fall, but Medicare payment penalties have not contributed to the result, according to a study in the Oct. 11 New England Journal of Medicine. "In this national evaluation of the effect of the 2008 [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] policy to reduce additional payments for preventable hospital complications, we did not find any effect on rates of targeted healthcare-associated infections as measured with the use of clinical data," the authors report. The study found a strong downward trend for targeted infections well before the implementation or announcement of the CMS policy, with no measurable additional benefit of the policy. "As CMS continues to expand this policy to cover Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act, require public reporting of [National Healthcare Safety Network] data through the Hospital Compare website, and impose greater financial penalties on hospitals that perform poorly on those measures, careful evaluation is needed to determine when these programs work, when they have unintended consequences, and what might be done to improve patient outcomes," the study concludes.