Private Rooms Cut Hospital Infection Rates and Medical Costs

Child in ICUWhat’s the best way to reduce rates of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs)? Should hospital patients learn more about hand hygiene? Does cleaning require use of more powerful chemicals? Should healthcare providers administer fewer red blood cell transfusions?

According to a new study from Cornell University, the most cost-effective solution doesn’t involve medical care, training, or supplies.

Advantages of Single-Patient Rooms

Published in the Journal of Critical Care, the Cornell University study indicates that patients in private hospital rooms are less likely to develop infections. In turn, this saves hospitals money. “Single-patient ICU rooms reduce the cross-contamination rate and avoid extra medical costs to contain infection,” explained Hessam Sadatsafavi, a postdoctoral researcher and the study’s lead author.

Single-patient rooms are more expensive to build and operate, but they reduce HAIs rates so much that private rooms make financial sense. According to the Cornell study, building new private rooms or converting multi-patient rooms into single rooms resulted in an internal rate of return at 56%, which is much higher than the rate of return that healthcare organizations consider acceptable.

Some Things to Consider

For hospitals and healthcare providers, the Cornell University study has important implications. Some patients, such as those undergoing certain treatments for cancer, are more susceptible to infection. Should hospitals place these patients in private rooms to reduce the risk of HAIs? Should healthcare providers order private rooms for these patients – and will insurance companies cover the costs?

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