The rate of bloodstream infections from hospital catheters is one of many statistics reported by hospitals in Maine and other states in response to demands for more transparency.

Maine has required since 2008 that the information be reported to the Legislature. Most data relate to hospital procedures, such as the percentage of pneumonia patients who receive antibiotics within four hours.

The frequency of treatment-related infections has become a prominent indicator of quality, but the measure is influenced by the kinds of patients at each hospital as well as the hospitals’ procedures, according to health officials.

“Data are very important to helping people compare but right now we’re in a transition period where the data are becoming more available but we’re also trying to make sure it’s more user-friendly and it answers the question correctly,” said Dr. Dora Anne Mills, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

With data such as infection rates, it’s important to compare similar hospitals that have similar levels of risks, she said.

The state categorizes hospitals into peer groups as a general guide, although there can be important differences even within those categories.

Mary Mayhew, vice president of the Maine Hospital Association, said it’s also important for patients to look beyond infection rates or any single indicator. “It is important to take a look at a variety of measures,” she said.

Patients’ advocates, such as Kathy Day of Bangor, are continuing to push for even more transparency, including the publication of other hospital-acquired infection rates.

“Reporting indirectly does benefit patients,” she said. “It puts pressure on (hospitals) to perform better.”


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