The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

January 15, 2013

ALH's Powers touts low hospital infections rate

By Kim West

— Athens-Limestone Hospital has one of the lowest infection rates in the state among hospitals that utilize infection-tracking software.

According to ALH CEO Kelli Powers, Athens-Limestone is second in the state among hospitals that utilize MedMined, a software program created through Birmingham's Innovation Depot and now owned by CareFusion.

The hospital had a 1.39 percent rate of hospital-acquired infections in 2012. ALH has rated 1.91 percent or lower in the past four years, including a low of 1.03 two years ago.

The program tracks NIMs — nosocomial infection markers — which measure the incidence of hospital-acquired infections. NIMs cover several types of infections, including blood, respiratory, stool, urine and wound.

“In the past three years what I’m really proud of is our low infection rate,” said Powers during a speech to the Athens Rotary Club on Friday. “If you go into the hospital for a knee surgery, you don’t want to get an infection while you’re there and bring it home with you, or extend your stay.

“We in Alabama are way ahead of the game as far as the country is concerned in tracking infections … since 1998 we’ve been tracking all of our infections — every time you either come in with an infection or get an infection after you’ve been in the hospital.”

There are an estimated 1.7 million health care-associated infections and 99,000 associated deaths annually, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition to the No. 2 ranking statewide, ALH is among the top five in the U.S. for hospitals that use MedMined. Alabama leads the nation in quality improvement for lowest infection rates, Powers said.

“We also are fifth in the country (for NIMs), and that’s because Alabama is so ahead on this,” said Powers, who told Rotarians her grandmother passed away after a urinary tract infection initially went undetected by a hospital in Georgia. “There are not a lot of states that are making as much progress as we have in keeping our low infection rates.”

The Alabama Legislature passed a bill known as the Mike Denton Infection Reporting Act that went into effect in 2011. It required health care facilities to collect data on inpatient hospital-acquired infections and report the information to the state Department of Public Health.

The bill was named after the son of retired state Sen. Bobby Denton of Muscle Shoals, who served 32 years in the Legislature. Mike Denton died at age 42 from a staph infection following knee-replacement surgery in 2002.

The legislation requires three types of infections to be reported: central-line associated bloodstream infections, urinary tract infections and surgical site infections.