I’ve always said that it’s better to stay out of the hospital.
When confronted with risks of infection, error, or complications — it’s of course better to stay healthy and stay home.
But sometimes an elective surgery is wise or an emergency hospital stay is necessary. And in those cases, all of us want to be sure that our patients are safe.
But recent data and evidence has begged the question — are hospitals incentivized to hide infections when they occur?
I have to believe that almost all hospitals across the country prioritize patient well-being above any concerns about reputation or profitability.
But when antibiotic resistance combines with age-old concerns about infection and sickness in hospitals, things get serious. And even good intentions — for instance, to thoroughly investigate an outbreak without alarming people — can end up hiding data and information that could keep people safe.
And the reality is that we all depend on hospitals sharing this information on their own behalf because there aren't agencies that will do so for them. In fact, as the New York Times reports, "under its agreement with states, the CDC is barred from publicly identifying hospitals that are battling to contain the spread of dangerous pathogens." For instance in 2016, there was an outbreak of a drug-resistant pathogen in a Kentucky hospital — but it was not until 2018 that the CDC issued a report on the outbreak. And, of course, hospitals themselves have often "circled the wagons" when an outbreak occurs, looking into the infections themselves rather than sharing information more broadly.
I completely understand wanting to limit public disclosure, especially in cases when public perception could be misinformed and reactive. Infection is complex and hospitals are often so big, they're like miniature cities, with outbreaks affecting a small minority of people.
But I do wonder whether the instinct to limit information about drug resistant infectious outbreaks within the medical community make sense. In fact, the tendency to limit information in this way is common in medicine, both at the level of the institution and at the level of the individual provider. We're under such immense pressure and scrutiny in the medical community — with such devastating consequences if mistakes are made — that many providers and organizations learn that it's better to keep information to yourself. The medical community often notices that "silos" keep excellent care, medical collaboration, and greater efficiency from happening — but the reality is that many of us have incentives to maintain those silos. So when an outbreak of an infection occurs, hospitals try to limit misinformation or panic — and in so doing, may limit information that could help other providers do care coordination or support them in solving the problem.
I hope that hospitals are doing the best they possibly can to prevent outbreaks, as well as sharing information when the outbreaks occur. But I also know that all of us in medicine should learn to share information more freely, collaborate more effectively, and put our patients' care well above our own instinct to hide missteps or needs for support. And we hope that iClickCare can play a role in helping providers share information securely, safely, and without risking negative consequences.
Try iClickCare for sharing information among the medical community members and within your medical team — safely and securely: