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A very simple prescription for curbing hospital infections

We're quite certain that most of our readers across Arizona appreciate a central irony associated with hospitals.

Namely, that is this: Although people go to hospitals for care and treatment to combat illness and injuries, medical facilities themselves often serve as primary catalysts contributing to worsened medical conditions and outcomes.

The "First, do no harm" directive that prominently marks the ancient Hippocratic Oath sometimes seems to be a mere platitude rather than a truly guiding principle in hospitals and clinics across the country. Empirical evidence indicates that a staggering number of people suffer from acts of medical malpractice and negligence each year in the United States.

The sources of substandard care are varied and broad, of course. Surgical injuries routinely occur. Medication mistakes (wrong drug, wrong dose, even wrong patient) are common. Diagnostic snafus -- wrong, delayed or missed diagnoses -- are a seemingly implacable industry problem.

And then there is the scourge of hospital-acquired infections, which a recent media article on the subject terms "the most common complication of hospital care in the United States."

Indeed, patient infections are a huge concern in American hospitals, but research from a new study indicates that the problem can be greatly curbed if facility administrators employ this simple and straightforward solution: Build more single-patient rooms.

Facially, that might seem cost prohibitive, but researchers say that the costs are quickly recouped by funds that don't have to be expended on dealing with infection-related issues that commonly surface in multi-patient rooms.

The lead author of the study says that single-patient rooms "can result in substantial savings compared with open-bay rooms."

Hospital managers across the country might want to take a close look at the research supporting that conclusion. It postulates a win-win scenario marked by cost savings and materially improved patient outcomes.

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