California Health Department Hospital Infection Data May Not Be So Accurate After All

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California medical malpractice lawyers and patients, who had been looking forward to the release of hospital infection data by the California Department of Public Health, may have to tone down their enthusiasm. The data was delivered as promised by the agency, but with so many caveats that one would wonder whether the data is worth using at all.

Earlier this month, the Department of Public Health released the first-ever report on hospital-acquired infections. The release of the data was a milestone of sorts, considering that no hospital up until now had made infection data available to the public. With this new data available, consumers, it was expected, would now be available to make informed and smart decisions about their choice of hospitals. The release of the report has not come cheap or easy. Hundreds of agency officials have been involved in accumulating data from hospitals that have never been anxious to share this data. Besides, a sum of more than $3.1 million has been spent both in state and federal funds to accumulate the data and compile a report.

However, the California Department of Public Health has been going out of its way to warn consumers that the data may not really be useful to compare hospitals. According to agency director Dr. Mark Horton, the data-gathering began too late for it to be really accurate. After all this work and expense, the department seems to be questioning the value of its own data.

According to some people like Carole Moss, who has been a strong voice in the movement to get hospitals to release infection data, the agency is purposely degrading the value of its own data to discourage consumers from using it to compare hospitals. Moss has a vested interest in all of this. A few years ago, she lost her son to a hospital-acquired infection, and in his name, managed to pass Nile’s Law that requires hospitals to make data available to the public.

With all this confusion about the accuracy of the data, perhaps patients should wait until the next report is out in January of 2012 to compare hospitals.

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