Recent cases in which large numbers of patients were potentially exposed to serious infections, including HIV and hepatitis, have elevated the need to better understand and monitor the incidence of healthcare associated infections and ASC compliance with infection control practices designed to protect patients.

“In all of its work on healthcare associated infection, GAO has consistently identified gaps in data about the prevalence of these avoidable infections as an issue that HHS must address,” said Rep. Waxman, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. “Although we know healthcare associated infections are a deadly public health problem, our surveillance is so poor we still don’t even know whether these infections kill tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands each year.“

“This report once again highlights the need for standardized and accurate data on the prevalence of healthcare associated infections,” said Rep. Pallone, chairman of the Subcommittee on Health. “It is clear that we need to do a better job of gathering this information so we can use the data to protect the American public from preventable infections that can cause serious injury or even death.”

“This report includes important findings on lapses in safety procedures that resulted in more than 50,000 of my southern Nevada constituents being notified of their potential exposure to Hepatitis C or other blood borne diseases in the last year. Since this outbreak was uncovered, more than 100 of these Nevadans have now tested positive. And we know this is far from an isolated event,” said Rep. Berkley. “The report being released highlights just how little we know about the prevalence of unsafe practices in outpatient care settings. While guidelines and standards exist, we lack the mechanisms to ensure they are being followed as required. I agree with the recommendations in this report that recurring periodic surveys of randomly selected ambulatory surgery centers should be conducted and more resources devoted to ensuring compliance with existing Medicare standards.”

The GAO report, Health-Care-Associated Infections: HHS Action Needed to Obtain Nationally Representative Data on Risks in Ambulatory Surgical Centers, underscores the lack of nationally representative, standardized data on the prevalence of healthcare associated infections in ambulatory surgical centers. According to the GAO, there are at least five disparate sources of data on healthcare associated infections in ambulatory surgical centers, including two administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). GAO recommends that HHS develop and implement a plan to conduct recurring, periodic surveys of randomly selected ambulatory surgical centers. This will assist HHS and other federal agencies in determining the nationwide prevalence of healthcare associated infections and ASC infection control protocol non-compliance in order to direct efforts to reduce infections and patient risk.