Acute, post-acute partnerships reduce C. diff about 50% in Washington state

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Hospitals and post-acute facilities in Washington state have cut their rate of Clostridium difficile infections in half since 2012 by partnering with each other in a robust infection control program, according to local news reports.

C. diff, which is linked to antibiotics that kill off gut organisms, is a potentially fatal condition that is a scourge in long-term care facilities. It also spreads between different types of healthcare settings.

The C. diff rate for participating providers was at 21.5 cases per 10,000 patient days when the infection control project began in Washington's Clark and Cowlitz counties in late 2012. By December 2013, the number decreased to 11.6 cases per 10,000 patient days, according to Marissa Harshman, health reporter for The Columbian.

The infection control task force was started by skilled nursing and rehabilitation provider Cascade Park Care Center and acute care provider PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, according to Harshman. Now, it involves about a dozen care facilities, three hospitals, and organizations such as Clark County Public Health and the Vancouver Fire Department.

Task force members, including administrators and nurse managers, meet every month, Harshman reported. They've developed a bright orange form that goes on top of a patient's charts during a facility transfer, which lists “any and all” infections. The effort also has included staff education at the various facilities on how C. diff spreads and best practices for prevention.

The collaboration demonstrates the kind of health outcomes that policymakers hope to achieve through new payment models that encourage coordinated care, such as accountable care organizations. And the task force didn't stop at C. diff. 

The facilities also have taken on influenza vaccination, and managed to bring the employee vaccination rate up to 89% this flu season, according to Harshman. Long-term care workers have lagged behind other healthcare professionals in getting vaccinated against the flu, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged residents' family members to push for caregiver vaccinations this year.